As an expectant mother, you’re probably overwhelmed by the reservoir of methods there are to care for your child immediately after pregnancy. While there are an ample number of methods, there is one that can be of particular interest considering its massive fanbase. Kangaroo Care, as the term suggests was derived from the methods of caring that kangaroos used to provide for their young. Kangaroos tend to hold their young as soon as they are born. Here’s a little history lesson for you. Skin to skin contact was initially introduced in the neonatal wards in Bogota, Columbia. This took place when there was a massive shortage of incubators for babies with several infections - mostly hospital induced. At that point, neonatolohists Edgar Rey and Hector Martinez found a vital solution resting in nature - in the form of kangaroos. Seeing this method of caring, they instructed mothers of low birth weight babies to hold them diapered but bare-chested between their breasts in an upright position - feeding them only breast milk. What they found was that the babies who were cared for in this way appeared to have lower mortality and this enabled the staff to focus on more critically ill babies.
This seems to be a pretty odd and common position to find most mothers in - odd because why do they do this and common because haven’t you seen mothers cradling their babies after birth, close to their chest?
When doctors found was that this skin-skin contact allowed mothers to leave the hospitals (which decreased overcrowding which also happens to decrease the lack of incubators) and this reduces their babies’ dependency on incubators - a feature that was quite common back then. The reason as to why most doctors stress on the importance of kangaroo care is because whn they introduced it, mortality rates plunged from 70 percent to 30 percent. Doctors around the world recommend this skin-to-skin contact that is now called kangaroo care to new mothers of noth premature and full term infant. This bonding is prescribed to last from 60 minutes to 24 hours a day and it does not only require the mother to perform this role - fathers can as well! The experience can be accurately summed up by Ahn Sethi who says, “Once you just place them there on your chest, they are just there calm.”
Now that we’ve covered what Kangaroo Care is, let’s go over its benefits and how it reflects on parents and babies.
- According to Marshall L Campbell Yeo, the inception of Kangaroo Care came about as a low cost alternative to incubators. This has, over time, accounted for many physiologic and behavioural changes in the infant as well as the mother. Research shows that preterm infants who have received kangaroo care have maintained a healthy body temperature. Looking at similar statistics, kangaroo care has been associated with decreased likelihood of infection, severe illness and death. What’s fascinating is that even a small amount of time dedicated to kangaroo care (an average of 1 hour a day for 14 days) is enough to show lasting results.
- Kangaroo care also helps in stablising your baby’s breathing pattern - a feature that can save lives but also help get rid of many eary complications that babies find themselves in.
- For mothers, kanagaroo care helps in promoting mental clarity. The diconnection between the baby and the mother soon after birth has caused a lot of mental stress and trauma for mothers. It has also helped prevent postpartum depression. Introducing kangaroo care has helped avoid that disconnection. A lot of mothers have said that it has also helped in increasing their confidence in being able to care for their children. Who doesn’t love a confidence boost?
- Kangaroo care also helps decreasing crying as the baby is surrounded by familiar warmth.
- It also helps in improving oxygen saturation levels which is a sign of how well and smooth oxygen is being delivered to all of the infant’s organs and tissues.
Now that you’ve understood the importance of Kangaroo Care, let’s illustrate steps on how to demonstrate it. When it comes to Kangaroo care, it is popularly known that more is better. However, according to Ludington, it is teh first two hours that are of prime importance to the baby. Here’s how to get started:
- Parents should be seated in a comfortable position to hold their baby. It is preferred to be in a dimly lit room so as to not alert the baby to the harshness of the light.
- Position the baby with their diaper and added clothes for warmth if needed on your bare chest for 20 minutes.
- Since this period is positioned around feeding, place the baby on the bare chest of the father or mother after it is breastfed.