Happy Kangaroo Care Day
Christine Sweeney, LICSW Program Manager, Parent Connection, BIDMC
MAY 12, 2016
You may not have known, but May 15th Is International Kangaroo Care Day. What is Kangaroo Care?
The American Academy of Pediatrics website for parents, states, that “Kangaroo care was developed in South America as a way to keep premature infants warm so that they could be released early from overcrowded hospitals. Mothers were instructed to hold their diaper-clad premature infants beneath their clothing, skin-to-skin, snuggled between their warm breasts.”
Kangaroo Care, also called Skin to Skin Care means placing your baby, in only a diaper, against your naked chest. Your baby can have her/his back covered with a blanket, but is laying belly to chest against you. It is a common practice for babies who are born early, but in fact, all babies benefit from skin to skin.
The benefits of kangaroo care for the infant include:
- Help baby maintain body temperature
- Stability of heartbeat and breathing
- Increased time spent in the deep sleep and quiet alert states
- Decreased crying
- Increased weight gain
- Increased breastfeeding
These benefits are apparent even when kangaroo care occurs for only a few minutes each day. Think of all the changes your baby must suddenly adjust to in the world outside your womb, the bright light, the noise, all can be quite overwhelming. In fact, research suggests that this type of physical contact is as important to baby's development as smiling and talking to your baby. It's also been shown to decrease parental stress and increase confidence!
While doing Skin to Skin, touch your baby, gently stroking her back as you hold her against you. Talk to your baby. The rhythm and soft cadence of your voice provides him comfort. This practice is a wonderful opportunity to bond with your baby. For moms, recovering from the labor of delivery, it provides you a way to nurture your baby, while at the same time allowing your body the rest it needs. For partners, it provides a wonderful opportunity for closeness.
In the Becoming Parents sessions I run for expectant parents, l present that for many newborns, the late afternoon/early evening time, typically between 4:30-7:30pm is called the “bewitching hour “. It’s the time of day when peak crying tends to occur. The parent who has been at home, may be exhausted, frustrated, and still not have had a shower! The other parent , is just coming through the door after a long work day, to be greeted by a crying, inconsolable newborn and a partner at wits end. Taking baby from the arms of this tired parent, and sitting in a reclined position practicing skin to skin will most likely not only soothe your baby, but will make you a hero to your partner. For couples adjusting to life with a newborn, that’s money in the relationship bank!
So give yourself a break from the daily tasks ahead of you, or your mental "to do" list, and try to be present in the moment. Enjoy this special time. While you don't realize it now, in the seemingly endless days and nights of the newborn period, this time is short.