I am Carrie Shaltz Haslup, founder + CEO of Tabeeze, a company dedicated to reinventing baby clothing for improved convenience and organic quality. Our innovative designs have been patented, and my inspiration for Tabeeze came from witnessing my newborn niece being swaddled. As a former architect with a strong design sensibility, I questioned the traditional baby onesie design, which often involved difficult maneuvers for parents. I wanted to make products that made it easier for parents to connect with their babies. In this comprehensive guide, we will explore the significance of Kangaroo Care, or skin-to-skin care, and the many benefits the practice has for newborns and their caregivers.
What is Kangaroo Care?
Kangaroo Care, also known as skin-to-skin care, is a practice that involves placing a newborn baby, typically a premature or low-weight infant, directly onto the bare chest of a parent or caregiver. This intimate contact allows the baby's skin to come into direct contact with the skin of their mother, father, or caregiver. Kangaroo Care can also be combined with breastfeeding or chestfeeding, making it an excellent opportunity to provide both nourishment and the benefits of skin-to-skin cuddling to the baby.
Why is it Called Kangaroo Care?
The term "Kangaroo Care" originated from its resemblance to the way mother kangaroos carry and nurture their offspring in their pouches. While the practice of holding and nurturing babies in close contact with their parents has been around for centuries, modern Kangaroo Care as we know it began in the late 1970s in Colombia, specifically in Bogotá.
Medical professionals in Bogotá were searching for solutions to improve the care of preterm babies. They had conversations with a wet nurse who described her method of bundling up newborns and placing them on her chest. This approach seemed to offer significant support to the babies. Inspired by this, doctors in Bogotá decided to try it with mothers and newborns in hospitals, and they found that it had a remarkable impact. There was a substantial decrease in preterm baby mortality rates.
Because the practice resembled how mother kangaroos carry their baby kangaroos in their pouches, they coined the term "Kangaroo Care" to describe this method of skin-to-skin contact between parents and their newborns, highlighting its nurturing and protective nature, much like a kangaroo's pouch.
When is the Best Time to Do Kangaroo Care?
Healthcare professionals usually recommend the best Kangaroo Care time after birth, which can be practiced in most hospitals. The timing can vary depending on the baby's health, ongoing medical procedures, and the birth location. Ideally, kangaroo care sessions should last for at least an hour. However, after this period, medical checks and necessary clean-up procedures may be performed, and the specific timing can differ based on individual circumstances.
Kangaroo Care is most crucial during the infant and newborn stages, particularly within the first three months of life. Nevertheless, the timing and frequency can be adapted to suit different situations. For instance, in cases where a baby is born from a surrogate, as was the case with my daughter, Kangaroo Care held special significance for me because it allowed me to bond with my daughter, even though she was carried by the surrogate. I would hold her bare-chested against my own skin as often as possible, and there's no need to follow strict schedules or time constraints for these sessions. The key is to incorporate Kangaroo Care whenever and as frequently as possible to reap its benefits.
How Does Kangaroo Care Work?
Kangaroo Care involves close physical contact between the parent or caregiver and the baby. Here's how it typically works:
Find a Quiet Space: Ideally, choose a calm and quiet environment for Kangaroo Care. Minimizing distractions such as TV and electronic devices is essential to create a peaceful atmosphere.
1. Undress Both Baby and Yourself
To ensure direct skin-to-skin contact, undress your baby, and if you're the parent or caregiver, undress yourself. This allows the baby's bare skin to contact your bare chest.
2. Chest-to-Chest Placement
Gently lay the baby's chest down on your chest, positioning them so that their whole front is in contact with your bare chest. This ensures ample skin-to-skin connection between the baby and your body.
3. Baby's Arm Position
Babies' arms during Kangaroo Care can vary in position. They may naturally rest down at their sides, lying against your chest, or sometimes their arms are up with their hands resting on your chest. Either way is acceptable, and you can adjust based on the baby's comfort.
4. Use a Blanket
Often, a light blanket is used to cover the baby during Kangaroo Care. This helps maintain their body temperature and provides a cozy environment. Ensure the blanket is not too heavy to avoid having to remove it.
5. Relax and Bond
Once the baby is comfortably positioned on your chest, take this time to relax, bond, and connect with your baby. Kangaroo Care is not just about physical contact; it's also a precious moment for emotional bonding and nurturing. You can engage in this practice for as little as 10 minutes or an extended period, depending on your and your baby's comfort and availability.
The key to Kangaroo Care is creating a warm and loving atmosphere where the baby feels safe and secure while benefiting from direct skin-to-skin contact with the parent or caregiver. It's a beautiful way to promote bonding and provide numerous health benefits to the baby.
Why is Kangaroo Care Important for Babies?
Kangaroo Care is essential for all infants, particularly preterm or low-birth-weight infants. It's a practice that offers numerous benefits and enhances the well-being and development of newborns.
Kangaroo Care aids in temperature regulation, a challenge for many newborns, especially premature ones. The close skin-to-skin contact with a parent or caregiver provides natural warmth, helping babies maintain a stable body temperature without needing external heating devices. Additionally, it stabilizes heart rates and oxygen levels, reducing the risk of issues like bradycardia and apnea, which are common concerns for premature infants.
Moreover, this practice encourages better weight gain, particularly in preemies, by promoting more effective growth. Kangaroo Care also fosters a deep emotional bond between the baby and the parent, instilling a sense of security and belonging, which is crucial for a baby's development. It triggers the release of oxytocin, the feel-good hormone, further enhancing the bonding experience.
Improved breastfeeding initiation and success rates are another advantage of Kangaroo Care. The close proximity to the mother's chest facilitates better latching and milk transfer. Babies in Kangaroo Care experience reduced stress levels, resulting in less crying, creating a more relaxed and enjoyable experience for both baby and parents.
Kangaroo Care empowers parents to give their babies the best start in life, promoting their physical health, emotional well-being, and the strong bond that will carry them forward. Your baby will thank you with every beat of their tiny heart.
Why is Kangaroo Care Important for Mothers?
Kangaroo Care is not only valuable for newborn babies but holds immense importance for mothers as well. This practice offers mothers a unique opportunity to deepen their emotional connection with their baby, fostering an unmatched sense of closeness and intimacy that strengthens the emotional attachment between mother and child. These moments of skin-to-skin contact are profoundly fulfilling for the mother, reinforcing her role as a nurturing and loving caregiver.
For breastfeeding mothers, Kangaroo Care stimulates the release of oxytocin, often called the "love hormone" or "bonding hormone," playing a vital role in milk ejection. The proximity to the baby's warmth and scent triggers this hormonal response.
Additionally, Kangaroo Care has been shown to reduce the risk of postpartum depression, a significant concern for many mothers. These moments of skin-to-skin contact provide a sense of purpose and fulfillment that can help counteract the challenges of postpartum mood disorders.
Skin-to-skin contact empowers mothers with greater confidence in caring for their babies. The bonding and understanding that occur with skin-to-skin contact help mothers interpret their baby's needs and cues, fostering a sense of self-assuredness and competence in caregiving.
The benefits of Kangaroo Care extend to the mother's postpartum recovery, promoting relaxation and reducing cortisol levels for both the mother and baby. This, in turn, aids in the mother's physical recovery after childbirth, alleviating pain and discomfort and making the postpartum period more manageable and comfortable for the mother. By embracing the benefits of Kangaroo Care, mothers can cherish these moments of skin-to-skin contact with their babies and nurture a profound connection.
Want more information about the benefits of Kangaroo Care for mothers? Check out our blog: Why is Kangaroo Care Important for Moms?
What About Kangaroo Care for Preterm Babies?
Yes, Kangaroo Care can be a lifeline for preterm infants or low birth weight babies in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) or the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU). These tiny fighters often rely on various medical equipment, but that doesn't mean Kangaroo Care is off the table. Kangaroo Care helps premature infants transition from a cozy environment to the medical world by providing comfort and stability, regulating their vital functions, fostering their development, and supporting an immediate bond with their parents or caregivers.
Skin-to-skin contact is widely recommended whenever possible in the NICU and PICU, where monitoring devices and equipment are essential for a premature baby's well-being. However, there are some instances where Kangaroo Care might not be feasible with neonatal care, such as when a baby needs specialized medical equipment like incubators with specialized lighting or tubes for feeding. In these cases, coordination with the medical team is essential to ensure that Kangaroo Care can still be safely performed.
Despite the challenges posed by the NICU environment, Kangaroo Care remains a powerful tool to enhance the well-being of preterm infants. It offers numerous benefits, including improved health, development, and bonding, making it a valuable practice despite complex medical care. So, while navigating the challenges of the NICU or PICU, it's essential to discuss the possibilities of Kangaroo Care with the medical staff to provide these fragile infants with the comfort and support they need.
For more information on navigating Kangaroo Care in the NICU or PICU, please read our blog: Kangaroo Care in the NICU: Kangaroo Care for Preterm Babies.
Safety During Kangaroo Care
Before practicing Kangaroo Care, ensuring a clean and safe environment for the baby and caregiver is essential. Make sure the caregiver's and the baby's skin is clean and free from lotions, strong deodorants, or perfumes and that there are no skin rashes or irritations. The caregiver should be in good health, avoiding Kangaroo Care if they are sick or have a contagious illness to prevent transmission. It's crucial to avoid Kangaroo Care if either the baby or caregiver has open wounds, sores, or infections on their chest area. Strong scents, like smoke from cigarettes or marijuana, should be avoided, as they can be uncomfortable for the baby. Proper positioning with the baby's head turned to allow unobstructed airflow is essential. Kangaroo Care is best done in a seated, comfortable position using a chair or recliner. Common-sense precautions should be taken to create a safe environment, ensuring both the caregiver and the baby are comfortable and alert during the session.
Kangaroo Care with Multiples
Kangaroo Care can be practiced in multiple births, such as twins or triplets. While it is slightly more logistically challenging with multiple babies, it is feasible and beneficial. Often, premature or multiple-birth babies may require additional medical attention, such as being on oxygen, but Kangaroo Care can still be incorporated into their care routine.
In the case of twins or triplets, it is advantageous to involve both parents to provide skin-to-skin contact and bonding simultaneously. However, if only one parent is available or parents have other medical needs post-birth, other trusted individuals, such as family members or healthcare professionals, can also practice Kangaroo Care with the babies. The key is to ensure that each baby gets the benefits of skin-to-skin contact and nurturing, even if it means rotating or switching between them.
While it may require doing things multiple times with multiple babies, Kangaroo Care remains a valuable bonding experience that can positively affect each newborn's well-being, especially in cases of multiple births.
Is Kangaroo Care Suitable for Adoptive and Non-Biological Parents?
Kangaroo Care is absolutely suitable for adoptive parents and non-biological caregivers. In my personal experience as a non-biological parent to our daughter, who was born through a surrogate with the use of an egg donor, Kangaroo Care played a significant role in our bonding process. We made the decision before her birth to have her placed on our surrogate's chest immediately after delivery. This allowed our daughter to acclimate to the surrogate's presence, considering she had been in her womb. Our daughter had skin-to-skin contact with our surrogate for about 45 minutes to an hour before we held her, facilitating a natural transition.
Additionally, our surrogate provided invaluable postpartum benefits by pumping milk for our daughter. She was experienced in breastfeeding, which helped our daughter latch onto her breast immediately. Kangaroo Care, in this context, becomes a crucial bonding opportunity for non-biological parents who didn't have the chance for the nine-to-ten months of pregnancy bonding that biological parents experience. It's a beautiful way to establish that vital connection with the child.
How Tabeeze Can Help
Tabeeze offers a practical solution to simplify skin-to-skin feeding and bonding for infants and newborns. Instead of the traditional onesie that involves undressing and redressing your baby every few hours, Tabeeze introduces a more convenient approach. Whether your baby is already comfortably positioned or cradled in your arms, Tabeeze allows you to effortlessly access your baby with a simple pull, eliminating the need for tedious and time-consuming outfit changes. Check out our products here!