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Kangaroo care in the NICU is an essential way to help your baby thrive.
When my preemie twin girls arrived at 27 weeks, the NICU nurses and doctors stressed the importance of skin-to-skin (aka kangaroo care).
If you have a preemie in the NICU or a full-term newborn infant at home, kangaroo care is one of the best things you can do, and here is why…
First, What is Kangaroo Care?
Kangaroo care is a method to hold and care for your baby skin-to-skin. Mothers and Dads can both do this. The benefits for each parent are different which we will cover in just a minute.
Skin-to-skin is a proven way to treat small or premature infants in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) because it offers an opportunity to improve a baby’s health and save their life.
This type of care is an evidence-based practice to help babies in the NICU thrive and develop.
5 Essential Benefits of Kangaroo Care in the NICU
Even if you have a full-term newborn at home, kangaroo care benefits both preemies and infants in the following ways:
1. Improve Brain Development
The bond between a mom and her baby is so special!
Research shows that skin-to-skin contact in the first few months of life can play a key role in a baby’s development, influencing positive brain activity and reducing stress hormones.
2. Improve Breathing
When your babe is skin-to-skin with you, it helps their body self-regulate which helps to stabilize their heart rate and breathing.
Did you know studies also show dads can pass on the same benefits as moms? Dads can help their newborns regulate their heart rate and breathing too by doing skin-to-skin.
If you have a preemie in the NICU…
Many early preemies experience dips in their heart rate and oxygen levels (since their body is growing and developing) which is why kangaroo care in the NICU is so important to do.
Both my twin girls, Lily and Lua, experienced numerous episodes of dips in their heart rates and breathing.
This was definitely scary to witness. Unfortunately, it is a very ‘common’ preemie thing that happens while in the NICU.
I noticed when I did skin-to-skin with each of my girls, their heart rates and breathing stabilized more often. Of course the bigger they got, the less they experienced these scary episodes!
3. Improve Weight Gain
When you hold your sweet pea against your skin it helps your baby use their natural instincts and feeding reflexes to begin:
These cues may help accelerate premature infants or full-term newborns to gain weight by improving feeding effectiveness.
4. Increase Bonding Between Parent and Baby
This is an obvious one. 🙂
The more you hold your baby, the more that bonding experience increases between the both of you. It helps you relate to one another.
I definitely felt a heightened connection the more I got to hold each of my twin girls while in the NICU. When it was time for skin-to-skin, my girls knew it was coming because they were immediately calm as I picked them up to hold them.
So get your snuggles on!
5. Reduce Stress Levels
While your baby is against your skin stress-relieving hormones release to help calm your babe.
Premature infant’s stress levels in the NICU may increase during:
- A diaper change
- Blood draws
- Oral care
- Temperature taken
- Tubing or IV inserted or taken out
All of these activities can stress a preemie out which is why skin-to-skin is great to do afterward. For my twin girls, Lily and Lua, I always did kangaroo care when their care time was finished.
How To Do Kangaroo Care (7 Easy Steps)
To get your snuggles on the right way, follow these seven simple steps:
1. Find a comfortable place to sit or lie down.
2. Drape a blanket over you and your baby, making sure that the baby’s head is upright above your heart in between your chest.
3. Keep your baby’s head to one side for easy breathing.
4. Place your baby’s tummy on the upper part of your abdomen while keeping their arms and legs folded.
5. Hold your baby close to your body and relax.
6. You can even breastfeed or feed your babe while doing kangaroo care if you wish.
7. Enjoy the bonding experience with your baby!
To Wrap It Up…
The benefits of kangaroo care go hand in hand for both preemies and full-term newborns to help:
- Improve brain development
- Improve breathing
- Improve weight gain
- Increase bonding time between you and your babe
- Reduce stress levels
If you are interested in trying kangaroo care with your sweet pea, talk to your NICU nurse, pediatrician, or lactation consultant to get started.
With a little bit of practice, you’ll be a pro in no time!
Until the next post, I’m sending you all the positive parent vibes!
Thank you for being here today!
Do you have more tips to share about kangaroo care in the NICU? Let me know in the comments below.
Was this post helpful? If so, you’d make my day by sharing it. 🙂
About The Author
Lindsey is the proud mom of two little miracles, Mono Mono twin girls, and one AMAZING older bro! She is the founder and content creator of Mono Mono Twins, the blog Intensive Therapy for Kids, and Co-Founder of The LENN Foundation 501(c)(3) which helps children with cerebral palsy (like her sweet nephew, Lenny) receive grants for intensive therapies to thrive. ♥