By Jill Wilson, IBCLC, Certified Kangaroo Care Educator
What is Kangaroo Care?
Kangaroo Care (KC) is a method of holding a baby that involves skin-to-skin contact. The baby, clothed only in a diaper, is placed in an upright position against a trusted caregiver’s bare chest. The infant’s back is then covered with a small blanket or piece of the caregiver’s clothing. Ideally, KC is initiated right after birth with the infant being placed on his or her mother’s bare chest.
Kangaroo care originated in Bogota, Columbia back in the 1970’s. One doctor discovered that when premature infants were held skin to skin with their mothers for long periods of time, they not only survived, but thrived. These babies experienced better respiration and heart rates, their body temperatures stabilized, sleep patterns regulated, stress was reduced and over all they just grew better! KC also helped to have better breastfeeding outcomes as well.
The practice of Kangaroo Care has spread worldwide since both premature and full term infants reap the benefits of skin-to-skin contact. KC is so beneficial to babies that hospitals now are starting to make it a standard post-partum practice.
Who can participate in Kangaroo Care?
That is one of the great things about Kangaroo Care…everybody can do it! It is a great bonding experience for moms, dads, and grandparents and other trusted caregivers. KC can also be done as much as desired.
How is it helpful to breastfeeding?
Research has shown that moms who do regular periods of Kangaroo Care with their babies have better breastfeeding outcomes. Not only does KC increase the chance a mom will exclusively breastfeed, it also increases the duration of breastfeeding. In fact, when KC is initiated right after birth, a mom is twice as likely to breastfeed. KC can benefit a mother’s milk supply as well. This is most likely because KC raises a mother’s oxytocin and prolactin levels (two hormones that play a key role in lactation.) When babies are in KC they often latch and feed better, which helps to boost milk supply as well.
Jill’s favorite things about Kangaroo Care:
I have several favorite things about Kangaroo Care. The first is, that it is so easy to do. You can do it almost anywhere and there is no special equipment required. All you need is a baby, a bare chest, and a blanket! I love Kangaroo care for all the ways it benefits babies. I often recommend doing skin to skin as a way to cope with a fussy baby. Doing skin to skin can help to calm babies by regulating their little systems. And of course, my favorite thing are the ways it benefits breastfeeding! It is amazing how such a simple practice can have so many benefits. KC also just feels good! Who doesn’t love having a baby all snuggled up close?
Whatever the reasons for doing skin to skin, the research is clear that KC benefits babies in multiple ways. It’s a great bonding experience for parents and is the perfect opportunity to enjoy your baby.