Kangaroo care is the practice of holding your diapered baby on your bare chest (if you're the father) or between your breasts (if you're the mother), with a blanket draped over your baby's back. This skin-to-skin contact benefits both you and your baby.You may be a little nervous about trying kangaroo care. If your baby is very small or sick, you may be afraid you'll hurt him. But you won't. Your baby knows your scent, touch and the rhythms of your speech and breathing, and he will enjoy feeling that closeness with you. Kangaroo care can help your baby:
- Maintain his body warmth
- Regulate his heart and breathing rates
- Gain weight
- Spend more time in deep sleep
- Spend more time being quiet and alert and less time crying
- Have a better chance of successful breastfeeding (kangaroo care can improve the mother's breastmilk production)
Ask your NICU staff about its policy on kangaroo care. Some NICUs postpone kangaroo care until the infant is medically stable, while others use it from birth onward. Kangaroo care is safe and beneficial, even if your baby is connected to machines. Whatever your situation, kangaroo care is a precious way to be close to your baby. You will cherish this time.
Kangaroo Care: The Best You Can Do to Help Your Preterm Infant, by Susan M. Luddington-Hoe and Susan K. Golant (Bantam Books, 1993).
Excerpted from the March of Dimes booklet, "Parent: You and Your Baby in the NICU", written in collaboration with Deborah L. Davis, Ph.D., and Mara Tesler Stein, Psy.D., authors of "Parenting Your Premature Baby and Child: The Emotional Journey."
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