Nurture Information Hub
Agustin Conde‐Agudelo, José L Díaz‐Rossello
Conventional neonatal care of low birthweight infants (< 2500 g) is expensive and requires both highly skilled personnel and logistical support. Kangaroo Mother Care (KMC) has been proposed as an alternative to conventional neonatal care of low birthweight infants. The major component of KMC is skin-to-skin contact between mother and newborn. The other two components of KMC are frequent and exclusive (or nearly exclusive) breastfeeding and attempted early discharge from hospital.
International Kangaroo Care Awareness Day is held on May 15th each year. It also marks the start of our annual Kangaroo-a-thon, where we encourage NICU and SCN units to participate in a challenge to tally the highest kangaroo-cuddle hours at the end of the 2 week period. It is a great way to spread awareness on the benefits of kangaroo care, whilst promoting skin-to-skin contact in the hospitals.
What is Kangaroo Care?
Kangaroo care or skin-to-skin contact is a special way both mums, dads and partners can spend time holding their baby and it is an experience parents remember fondly during their hospital stay. Whilst it is great for bonding there is also evidence of the medical benefits for your baby.
In November 2023 the World Health Organisation (WHO) released results from research and the lifesaving impact of Immediate Kangaroo Mother Care on babies worldwide.
The WHO explains Kangaroo Mother Care as:
“Kangaroo mother care is a method of care for preterm infants. The method involves infants being carried, usually by the mother, with skin-to-skin contact. This guide is intended for health professionals responsible for the care of low-birthweight and preterm infants.”
In Australia, commonly referred to as Kangaroo Care or Skin to Skin contact, this care provided as early as possible after birth to your baby is an important part of your baby’s care. Speak with your baby’s health care team and make it part of your routine when with your baby to request kangaroo care or skin to skin as often as possible.
How to do Kangaroo Care?
When doing Kangaroo Care, babies wear only a nappy and are placed in an upright position directly on their parent’s bare chest. Your baby’s position will be determined by your baby’s nurse and may be dependent on what medical equipment is being used in your baby’s care.
Kangaroo care can be done with both premature and full-term babies and is known to have many benefits, such as:
Benefits to Baby:
Benefits to Parents:
Parents should not apply strong perfumes and deodorant or smoke before participating in kangaroo care time with their baby. If the doctors feel that cuddling would be too much for your baby, you can still provide them comfort by offering your finger to grasp and talking or singing to them. However, it is always important to speak with your baby's medical team if you have any questions in relation to kangaroo cuddles.
Throughout May we're encouraging people to help us promote Kangaroo Care by sharing photos on social media. Join us on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter and encourage families to post comments and photographs #miraclebabies #kangaroocare #kangaroocuddle #nicu #specialcare #premmie
We also want to hear what skin-to-skin contact means to families and what their experiences have been around it. People can share their stories through our 'Family Story' form.
Kangaroo Care offers empowerment to parents by being able to participate in the improvement of their pre-term or sick baby compared to incubator care. The technique has also been shown to improve bonding between mother and baby, particularly because it avoids separating women from their newborns in the first days after birth.
Babies who have kangaroo care may even cry less and sleep more peacefully, some small-scale studies have suggested. It has also been linked to brain development, including improved attention and movement. One study has even suggested that feeling the mother's heartbeat helps to synchronise the infants breathing while attached to her chest.
"I visited my son an average of 12 hours every day and spent most hours next to his bedside. The time I treasured most was our daily Kangaroo cuddles; we would spend 2 hours snuggling together, often with the both of us drifting off to sleep. Though there were lots happening around us it often seemed that we were the only two people in the room." - Naomi, Miracle Mum to Caden born at 29 weeks.