I used to say that Ollie was the one who did Kangaroo Care to me as opposed to me doing it to him. It felt more than right, as many preemie moms I wasn’t allowed to hold him until three weeks after he was born.
I was craving to hold my baby, but what I got to do was so much more healing for me as a mom than just holding him. I got to hold him in a vertical position skin-to-skin.
The first day that I held my baby will be forever carved in my heart and my memory. This simple contact quickly became my main defense against early postpartum depression. I felt like my soul was healing with every breath we took. I didn’t ask questions and just took what I could get, I was therefore surprised to find out later all that we were unconsciously doing for our son.
How to Kangaroo Care
Skin-to-skin contact is easy to master, all you have to do is:
- Find a comfortable sit for yourself, since you will be needing to hold your baby in a straight position, your comfort is very important.
- Your baby should be wearing her diaper only.
- Place your baby in an upright position against your bare chest. Make sure that her legs are comfortable in a “frog-like” position.
- Cover yourself and your baby with a sheet or with a baby wrap for kangaroo care.
- Snuggle for at least 20 minutes and enjoy!
Benefits of Kangaroo Care
The benefits of Kangaroo care have been widely studied.
The fact is that kangaroo care works! It works for parents, it works for babies, and it works for hospitals! It was initially practiced in Colombia where hospitals had not enough incubators for their preemies.
The doctors, then, started sending preemies home and asking their parents to act as human incubators. It not only worked, but babies who were in kangaroo care often thrived! It was so successful that hospitals all over the world started implementing this practice!
Some of the benefits are:
Kangaroo Care Promotes baby’s growth
It may seem like no biggie for us grown-ups, but preemies have to spend a lot of calories regulating their temperature.
When a parent does skin-to-skin contact with his or her baby, that parent is regulating the baby’s body temperature.
The calories that the baby saves just from this simple action, are critical for her growth. Kangaroo-cared babies increase their weight dramatically better than their peers who don’t have skin-to-skin contact.
Kangaroo Care Lays the Foundations for Breastfeed
Babies who are held in kangaroo care by their moms for long periods of time on a daily basis are more prone to breastfeed spontaneously.
This could be due to the stimulation caused by being close to the smell of the milk.
Viceversa, mommies who do skin-to-skin contact regularly for long periods of time have a bigger milk letdown. Having the baby so close to the bottom stimulates the production of milk!
If you’re having a low milk flow you may consider doing at least 2 hours of skin-to-skin per day for a week. It’s a win-win situation for everyone!
Kangaroo Care Improves Baby’s breathing and heart rate
Babies relieve stress by being in kangaroo care.
The steady heartbeat of their parent lull them into a deep sleep, and their bodies remember the time in mom’s womb.
All of this helps the baby regulate her heartbeat and steady her breathing. When my son was in the NICU, I only got to hold him skin-to-skin four hours a day due to my NICU crazy schedule. And my husband had to return early to work so he only got his turn on the weekends.
When we got home, we had to hold Ollie in kangaroo care 24 hours a day.
It was tough to be all day sitting down holding our son (although my husband, my mom, and I took turns), but we saw the improvements early on.
Back in the NICU Oliver would turn purple every time he breastfed, it was downright scary. He had episodes of desaturation, and the nurses couldn’t lower his cannula settings much.
After just a couple of days home in kangaroo care, all of this changed dramatically. He started coordinating better the sucking-breathing pattern, and he started breathing more steadily.
It improves the baby’s relationship with others
My husband did a lot of kangaroo care back in the day. He loved it.
His relationship with Oliver became a lot stronger. My parents did a lot of skin-to-skin contacts, too. And today we are all very close.
It, most of all, helped my husband understand that he could do a whole lot for our baby.
Sometimes, since mommies are the ones who give birth, have a pregnancy, and breastfeed, dads can feel alienated. At first, it was my husband’s case. Don’t get me wrong, he adored our son from before he was born, but he just didn’t feel what he could do for him.
Until he did kangaroo care, that is!
It helped me with Post-Partum Depression
Granted, I’m talking about my particular case, but it really did.
Post-partum depression for me was very different from term pregnancies. I just didn’t know it was going to hit me. Naive, I know…
When my son was at the NICU, I had to be strong. I had no other option.
There was no time for me to get depressed and I just “put myself on pause.” I didn’t realize that when I unpaused myself 2 months later, the waves of repressed depression would come crashing down.
They did. And it was really difficult.
Nothing helped me as much as holding Oliver in kangaroo care. Having him so close to me and seeing him so peacefully reminded me of our pregnancy.
Most preemie moms feel sad about their pregnancy being “incomplete.” This is my case too, but the bond we had when we did skin to skin was deep and it brought us both back to when he was in my belly.
And that drove depression away.
That’s a Wrap!
Kangaroo care may seem scary at first, at least it did to me.
It’s hard to manipulate a seemingly fragile baby surrounded with wires and settle her into our chest. But once we master it, it is worth it. The benefits of skin-to-skin have followed us to the date.
Have you done kangaroo care? Tell us about your experience in the comment section.