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Baby Care

Kangaroo Care for Preterm Babies

How skin-to-skin contact helps premature babies.

Verified by:
iMumz Expert Panel
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Updated on:
September 30, 2022

About Kangaroo Care

Kangaroo care is simply holding your baby, who is wearing only a diaper, against your bare chest. You can cover his back within a blanket or with one of your own pieces of clothing, giving him the feeling that he’s safely in mom’s “pouch.” It’s as if the baby’s in a kangaroo pouch hence the term.

You can start skin-to-skin contact, known as kangaroo care, as soon as the neonatologist determines that your baby is stable enough even if she is very sick or very small, and hooked up to machines.

Your baby will be in a NICU where most of the baby's care is provided by strangers. The more kangaroo care ideally at least an hour at a time, the better. What’s more, both you and your baby will collect on the benefits of skin-to-skin contact even if it’s only for short periods of time each day.  

Both mum and dad can offer Kangaroo care. Simply hold your diapered baby upright on your bare chest (between your breasts if you’re the mom), positioned tummy to tummy with a blanket or your clothes draped over your baby’s back. Then, breathe in deeply your baby’s scent, close your eyes, and relax. This act of yours gives your baby great comfort and reassurance.

Benefits

Not only can’t the snuggling hurt your baby, it can help in so many ways.

  • Your baby will be comforted by your heartbeat, your body’s fragrance, and the rhythm of your voice and your breathing. Improves oxygen circulation. In turn, deeper, more regulated breathing will increase the rate of oxygen being delivered to the baby’s organs and tissues, which promotes growth and development of his organs, and helps him gain weight.
  • Helps calm the baby. Your preemie will recognize the heartbeat and voice of mom from his time in the womb. That’s why being pressed against mom’s chest helps him feel more secure in this new alien world.
  • Helps regulate the baby’s heart rate, breathing, and body temperature. For example, the mom’s breasts change in temperature to suit her baby’s needs. If the baby is a little warm, her breasts will become cooler to help cool the baby down, and vice versa. The close contact will also intuitively teach the baby to regulate his heart rate and breathing to mom’s.
  • Better sleep: Preemies who get plenty of Kangaroo care have more high quality, deep sleep, allowing them to grow, develop, and gain weight faster.
  • Promotes brain development. More restful sleep, less stress, and better oxygen circulation to the preemie’s organs and body tissue all contribute to healthy brain development.
  • Helps bonding: He’ll also hear mom or dad’s breathing, and smell his parent’s skin, helping parent-baby bonding.
  • Helps promote breastfeeding. Babies who are held close to mom’s breasts are more likely to show an inclination for breastfeeding. This closeness can even help improve mom's breast milk production.
  • Boosts immune system: Contact with your skin can help expose the baby to healthy bacteria, boosting his immune system.
  • Helps the baby put on weight: As the preemie begins to rely on the parent for temperature regulation, he uses fewer calories for keeping warm. Skin-to-skin contact also promotes his physical development, leading to weight gain.
  • Less crying: As the baby rests better and stays calmer for longer, he’ll cry less and feel less distressed.