Kangaroo Mother Care (KMC) is a way of caring for premature babies through skin-to-skin contact with their moms. It’s recommended for premature or ill babies because they miss out on critical time in the womb where they would have constantly heard their mother’s soothing heartbeat and been encapsulated in her body’s warmth and safety while getting continuous nourishment and care. Named after kangaroos that carry their babies in their pouches, the method can also be done by fathers, helping them bond with their babies. Huggies® expert, Lynne Bluff, a registered nurse, midwife and childbirth educator sheds some light on this subject.
What is Kangaroo Mother Care?
Kangaroo mother care (or skin-to-skin care), is a simple, easy method of caring for newborn infants where the baby is placed with just a Huggies® nappy (so mom and baby aren’t continually covered in wee and poo), on its mother’s chest – skin to skin with nothing between the two. Mom can then wrap a shirt around her and her baby, keeping the baby in an upright position between her breasts. Mom uses her own body heat to keep her little one warm. The human body is incredible, a new mom’s body has the ability to heat or cool her chest in response to the baby’s temperature and in so keeping baby at a well-regulated temperature.
When it comes to kangaroo care, more is better. The first two hours after birth are the most important, in terms of easing baby into the world. After that, continued skin-to-skin contact can still be beneficial, especially for preemies that have low birth weights. Consider it an alternative to an incubator. It is also recommended that preemies get frequent kangaroo care for the first 20-plus weeks of life. Do it as long as baby enjoys it, when your baby starts fussing and trying to get off your chest, it’s a good sign it’s time to let him or her do their own thing.
What are the benefits of kangaroo care?
It helps baby adapt: when your baby was in the womb, they didn’t need to regulate their own temperature. By having your baby skin to skin, it regulates and stabilises their temperature.
It boosts baby’s mental development: preemies who received kangaroo care had better brain functioning at 15 years old¹ – comparable to that of adolescents born at term – than those who had been placed in incubators. By stabilizing heart rate, oxygenation, and improving sleep, the brain is better able to develop. Also, the hormones that aid mental growth and stability are activated by skin to skin, whereas a baby not in skin to skin contact with their mom is on high alert and this causes added stress to the little one.
It promotes healthy weight: skin-to-skin contact dramatically increases newborn weight gain. When babies are warm, they don’t need to use their energy to regulate their body temperature. They use that energy to grow instead.
It makes breastfeeding easier: newborns instinctively have a heightened sense of smell, so placing your baby skin-to skin helps them seek out the nipple and begin breastfeeding. In fact, moms who practiced kangaroo care were more likely to breastfeed exclusively and, on average, these moms breastfed three months longer than those who didn’t practice skin-to-skin care². Premature babies initially will need to be fed expressed breast milk via a nasogastric tube as the sucking reflex may not yet be developed. But once the baby is feeding on its own, the breast becomes very accessible for the babies that are skin to skin with their moms.
It helps you make milk: when mom and baby are together, hormones that regulate lactation will help you produce more milk.
It reduces baby’s stress and pain: just 10 minutes of skin-to-skin contact reduces baby’s’ levels of stress and makes babies feel calm and safe. Research has shown that when preterm infants are held skin to skin, they react less to heel pricks, a minimally invasive way to draw blood, and a common source of pain among preemies.
It helps baby sleep: less stress means better sleep. Preemies who were cradled skin-to-skin slept more effectively and woke up less often than those who slept in incubators.
It prevents postpartum depression: various studies show that kangaroo care reduces postpartum depression in new moms. Activity in the mother’s adrenal axis is negatively influenced by childbirth, and skin-to-skin contact may reactivate the pathways to minimize the risk of depression. Plus, oxytocin released from skin-to-skin care decreases maternal anxiety and promotes attachment, further reducing the risk.
Kangaroo Care has come to play an important role for mom and baby especially in the case of preemie babies. Those moments of bonding and hugging your little one is what matters.
Huggies® is with you every step of your nappy journey. Your baby gets its first hug from you, let the second hug be just as good.