Kangaroo Care (KC)

So what is Kangaroo care? It is skin-to-skin contact with a caregiver coupled with exclusive breastfeeding. This type of care is especially helpful in preemies but is also beneficial during healthy, full-term care of a baby.

In developing countries, preemie babies are at high risk of dying soon after birth, mostly due to infections.

In 1979, in Colombia, Kangaroo Care was founded. Instead of using swaddling or cribs, mothers were asked to keep their babies skin to skin under their clothes. These babies where found to be discharged from hospital sooner than others with a higher percentage of them surviving. Since then the idea of KC has been studied extensively.

Babies, who are held in incubators, produce high levels of stress hormones and use more energy, have a lower body temperature and slow heart rate compared to babies who are cared for via KC.

Kangaroo Care Benefits

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  • Breathing, oxygenation, heart rate and temperature are more stable during kangaroo care.
  • Lower level of stress hormones (up to 74% less). Kangaroo care is especially helpful in preemies since high-stress levels can cause digestion and growth problems. 
  • The baby cries less. Babies who are cared for in this way, spend more time in a quiet alert or deep sleep state. 
  • The mother produces an abundance of milk because the baby is near her breasts and is allowed to breastfeed on demand 24/7. 
  • Preterm babies who are in KC are usually discharged from hospital sooner. They are also at lower risk of returning to the hospital. 
  • Increased bonding between the baby and caregiver. 

Safety of Kangaroo Care

  • KC is safe for babies as small as 700g!
  • KC is safe for babies on mechanical ventilation. 
  • KC is safe for long periods of time. (unlimited)
  • KC is safe for babies who are not yet stabilized. In fact, it will stabilize the baby better than an incubator. 

How is KC done?

The mother is usually the primary KC caregiver, because exclusive breastfeeding is involved, if possible. The mother's partner can also take part in this practice, part of the time. 

The baby needs to be held skin to skin, meaning no clothes in-between the mother and her baby. The baby should be covered with the mother’s loose clothing and they should be covered by a warm blanket. (depending on the weather)  The baby can wear a diaper. The baby may also wear a cap. The baby should be held upright against the mother’s chest, with the little one’s head turned to the side, resting on a breast. 

KC and Your Baby

The Advantages of Breastfeeding a Premature Baby

Tracy Behr, CBC, CLD (CBI)

Reference: Course information through Childbirth International on the physiology of breastfeeding / KC.

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