In the late 1970s, the death rate for babies in Bogota, Columbia was up to 70 percent. Sadly, it seemed that many of these precious babies were dying from infections and ailments simply due to a lack of attention.
Researchers there found that babies who were held close to their mother’s bodies for extended periods of time each day didn’t just survive, but thrived and did well. In fact, after kangaroo care became commonplace, the infant death rates in Bogota decreased to 30 percent.
What is Kangaroo Care
Kangaroo care describes a method of baby holding that involves skin-to-skin contact. A baby who is naked (minus a diaper) is placed in an upright stomach to stomach position on mom or dads bare chest. The baby is then covered with a blanket or by his parent’s clothing. When a baby is snuggled underneath his parent’s shirt, it resembles a kangaroo being snuggled in his mother’s pouch. Hence the term “kangaroo care” was coined.
Benefits of Kangaroo Care
Kangaroo care offers benefits to both babies and their parents. Kangaroo care helps to stabilize the baby’s body temperature and heart rate, improve breathing and oxygen saturation levels, facilitate rapid weight gain, minimize crying and increase the amount of sleep a baby gets. For the parents, kangaroo care facilitates bonding and increases parental confidence. For moms, kangaroo care can also increase milk supply which can lead to more successful breastfeeding for the baby.
Why it Works
Studies have shown that the mother’s breasts actually warm up and cool down to meet the temperature needs of her baby. When a baby’s temperature is regulated in part by his mother, he expends less calories trying to stay warm, thus weight gain increases more quickly.
More and more United States hospitals are encouraging parents to provide kangaroo care to their premature or ill newborns. While some neonatal intensive-care units (NICU) require babies to be medically stable and free from machines prior to introducing kangaroo care, others encourage it from the time a baby is born.