Kangaroo mother care (KMC) is a method of caring for and feeding newborns that involves skin-to-skin contact. Its primary purpose is to allow parent interaction and minimize the mother’s separation from her newborn. In kangaroo care, the mom or dad is used as an incubator as the baby adjusts to life outside the womb. The baby is held into the bare chest for direct skin-to-skin contact. It enables the parent to physically interact with the baby as it eases through the stress of childbirth.
Skin-to-skin contact does not only build a bond between the baby and the family members. It is also implemented for its medicinal benefit, especially for pre-term babies.
Kangaroo mother care (KMC) helps regulate the baby’s heart, breathing, and temperature and could give the newborn better rest.
What is kangaroo care?
Kangaroo care is a skin-to-skin contact initiated with newborns to give babies thermal control.
This baby care method started in Bogota, Columbia, in 1978.
Back then, many babies failed to survive infection and respiratory problems simply from the lack of attention. As a result, the death rate for pre-term babies during that time reaches up to 70%.
Thus, Dr. Edgar Ray and Dr. Hector Martinez proposed the kangaroo care method. They saw it as a solution to the high mortality and abandonment rates in many nurseries.
The program proved successful because of the reduced mortality rate after its initiation.
It was used for premature babies, but presently, full-term babies are also given this care opportunity.
How is kangaroo care done?
Kangaroo mother care is done immediately after birth, or a couple of days, as the baby’s status allows. This is not only limited to moms; fathers or other family members can initiate it as well.
During kangaroo care, the provider sits or lies at an angle.
The baby is stripped of clothing and placed against the bare chest of the provider in an upright position. Then, a blanket is draped over and around them.
The placement looks like a mother kangaroo holding her joey in her pouch. This is where the term kangaroo care stems from.
Benefits of kangaroo care
Kangaroo care influences neonatal and maternal bonds. Accordingly, it also has a lasting effect on the neurobehavioral and emotional health of babies until later in life.
The range of benefits of kangaroo care includes:
- Reducing hypothermia and regulating body temperature
- Regulating baby’s heartbeat and breathing
- Improving weight gain in premature babies
- Improving oxygen saturation levels
- Supporting better sleep habits
- Making breastfeeding easier
- Making the baby less fussy
- Decreasing the baby’s reception to pain
Moms also reap benefits from kangaroo care, such as:
- Easy breastfeeding
- Boost breastmilk production
- Develop bonding and attachment with the baby
- Become more confident in handling the baby
- Ease the stress of delivery
According to research, kangaroo care can trigger the release of a happy hormone called oxytocin.
It reduces the risk of depressive thoughts and decreases maternal stress. Thus, kangaroo care helps reduce the possibility of postpartum depression.
Oxytocin is also a hormone that increases breast milk production to support breastfeeding mothers.
How long should I do kangaroo care?
At least an hour of kangaroo care is enough for newborns. However, you can go beyond that as long as you and your baby feel comfortable with it.
Shortening the duration from 60 minutes is not recommended since changes can become stressful for babies.
The length of KMC should increase until it becomes continuous as possible.
You can continue doing skin-to-skin contact with the baby for as long as you can. But often, they would outgrow the need after 40 weeks in gestational age or probably about 12 weeks after delivery.
When your baby gets fussy and wriggles out of the blanket every time, wean her off KMC. It may mean she is not comfortable with it anymore.
How soon should kangaroo care be initiated?
The earlier, the better is best for kangaroo care. But, there might be instances that it is delayed depending on the baby’s condition.
When a baby is born pre-term, the chances of complications are high.
There could be serious conditions like respiratory distress that need immediate medical attention. Thus, initial care must be given first until the medical conditions improve.
Sometimes, newborns in the NICU are allowed skin-to-skin contact only after a couple of weeks from the delivery date.
How should I prepare for kangaroo care?
The baby care facility will give you a go-signal for when to initiate kangaroo care. It can be done even if the baby is still in the feeding tube and IV, as long as the condition is stable and he can breathe spontaneously.
One of the basic considerations of KMC is the willingness of the mother or caregiver.
Dads and other family members can provide baby skin-to-skin contact only intermittently since they cannot breastfeed.
Participation of other family members is necessary to help moms take a break while continuously providing KMC.
The caregiver needs to be clean, in good health, and did not smoke prior to the session. They should also refrain from wearing perfumes before doing skin-to-skin contact with the baby.
What are the disadvantages of kangaroo care?
KMC does not pose any hazards, but there are risks if you don’t hold your baby enough. The only thing about it is it can be uncomfortable and time-consuming.
Caregivers need to devote their time, whether the baby is still in the facility or at home, to kangaroo care.
In the beginning, breastfeeding can be difficult, as it always has been for many first-time moms. But the kangaroo care position itself is best for breastfeeding.
It prevents babies from slipping into the shallow latch to help them get the most out of food.
Do all hospitals practice kangaroo care?
Many hospitals have implemented skin-to-skin baby contact, but not all. Some facilities hand over the baby to parents, cleaned up and swaddled.
You can check this in advance with the hospital or birthing facility. If you have a birth plan, you can also include this in your request.
Should I breastfeed as soon as the baby is put in my chest?
If the newborn shows interest in breastfeeding, you can. But don’t pressure the baby if he does not want it. Just take the time to relax and bond with your baby.
Can I do kangaroo care after C-section?
It depends on the birthing facility and your baby’s condition after delivery.
Some C-section moms do report feeling less stressed doing KMC while being stitched up.
Like breastfeeding, kangaroo mother care is another important care method for newborns. It provides a big help to premature babies by regulating their body temperature and reducing infant mortality.
Skin-to-skin contact also helps with the baby’s neurobehavioral, emotional, and developmental health.
Kangaroo care requires full involvement for a short while until the baby outgrows it. But what is a small sacrifice for the baby’s development and health as he grows, right?