Posted: Apr 16, 2012 11:43 AM
The primal, intimate relationship between babies and moms does not end at birth. Learn why skin-to-skin contact of kangaroo care mimics the womb and provides the most natural and healing environment for premature infants.

Follow your natural instincts

Giving birth to a premature baby can be an overwhelming and awe-inspiring experience. While you struggle to get up to speed on your baby’s health and what’s going on in the NICU, inside you are aching to be close to your precious newborn. Of course, natural instincts are often correct -- and in this case they are right on.

Mothers and infants have a biological need to be together. Preemies, just as much as full-term infants, need human touch and the comfort of their mother’s arms. The success of kangaroo care demonstrates the vital importance of skin-to-skin contact for premature babies. In the high-tech world we live in, it can be hard to believe that the simple human solution of skin-to-skin contact can be so healing -- but the statistics speak for themselves.

What is kangaroo care?

Human moms don’t have pouches to keep their babies warm like kangaroos, but holding your baby to your bare chest has extraordinary benefits. In fact, babies kept in kangaroo care thrive better than those in incubators. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, "The surprising benefits of kangaroo care for the infant include warmth, stability of heartbeat and breathing, increased time spent in the deep sleep and quiet alert states, decreased crying, increased weight gain, and increased breast-feeding. These benefits are apparent even when kangaroo care occurs for only a few minutes each day.”

Amazing power of kangaroo care

Jenny Groothuis, mother of 14 kids, talks about her experience with kangaroo care after having given birth to seven premature babies, “I was amazed by the healing power of kangaroo care. I think it is so important that preemies don’t just associate human touch with pain. No matter how many tubes and things we were dealing with and how busy the nurses were, I would make sure I had an empty bladder (so I could sit for hours on end!) and let the little ones lie on my bare chest. It was incredible to watch their stats normalize just from human contact and all of them ended up nursing much sooner than anyone expected, thanks to kangaroo care.”

How to kangaroo

Interested in getting your kangaroo on? We’ll show you how. Both moms and dads can practice kangaroo care and it’s good not just for premature babies, but for full-term infants as well.

step one:^Unclothe baby down to his or her diaper.

step two:^Open your shirt (it is easiest to use a button down shirt if you are in a public place during kangaroo care) and place your baby on your bare chest.

step three:^Close your shirt and cover baby with a warm blanket from the outside. Now you can sit back, snuggle and enjoy the sweet pleasures of skin-to-skin kangaroo care with your baby.

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