This Saturday (15th May) is Kangaroo Care Awareness Day - a day which is dedicated to highlighting the importance and benefits of skin-to-skin contact for babies and their parents. We've teamed up with paediatric doctor Dr Kokul Sriskandarajah for a Q&A on what kangaroo care is and how it can benefit both babies and parents!
What is kangaroo care?
Kangaroo care or ‘skin to skin’ is the method by which babies, especially low birth weight and preterm babies, are placed directly onto their parents’ bare chest. Both mum and dad can participate in kangaroo care. The saying comes from mama kangaroos carrying their joeys in a warm secure pouch as they grow.
How does kangaroo care work?
For kangaroo care the baby is normally unclothed down to their nappy, and is carefully placed chest-to-chest, tucked inside the top of mother/father. This leads to direct skin contact between baby and the caregiver. This can be done in all different settings from in the delivery room to the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) to the comfort of your own home.
Why is kangaroo care important?
By emulating life inside the womb, outside, it helps with initial bonding between parent and baby. In hospital kangaroo care provides our preterm and low birthweight babies time out of the incubator so they can cuddle skin to skin with mum and dad. This is so important physically and mentally for both parent and child, providing the closeness both need at this very early-stage postpartum.
What are the benefits of Kangaroo care?
There are multiple benefits to Kangaroo care including improving bonding between parent and child, helping with breast milk production (lactation) and stabilising baby’s temperature and other vital signs. This simple caring technique has been shown to aid the newborn’s development, sleep, weight gain and recovery after illness. It also has a positive effect on mother helping prevent postpartum depression and also allows dad to bond and actively get involved with his baby.
How can I do kangaroo care with my baby?
Follow these 10 steps for safe kangaroo care:
- Wear a front-opening top
- Ensure the room temperature is just right - not too hot or too cold
- Adjust the lighting so it is not too bright
- Find a comfortable chair to sit in
- Wash your hands before picking up your baby
- Remove baby’s clothes down to their nappy (and hat if necessary)
- Place the baby carefully directly onto your bare chest – for mothers, between the breasts is the ideal location
- Wrap your top around baby to keep them warm and snug
- Ensure you support baby’s head throughout
- Lean back, relax and enjoy the closeness with your baby
Note in hospital the experienced nurses and midwives will help you to do this.
Dr Kokul Sriskandarajah is a paediatric doctor who works for the NHS in London. You can follow him on Instagram for more tips and advice for parents on child and adolescent health. @ThePaedsDoc