Kangaroo Care - What is it and how can I use it with my baby?

15 May 2021

Kangaroo Care - What is it and how can I use it with my baby?

Today is International Kangaroo Care Awareness Day, and we wanted to take this opportunity to share information about this special form of bonding, the benefits for both full-term and premature babies, and how parents can make the most of skin-to-skin contact with their little ones.

What is Kangaroo Care?
Kangaroo Care is a unique way of holding babies when they are little.

Just like a mother kangaroo carries her joey close in her pouch, babies are placed on the skin of a parent, usually nuzzled in a top or blanket to keep them warm.

It’s a popular technique in neonatal units where babies typically don’t experience much skin-to-skin contact. It has superpowers for both parents and baby, and can help with everything from bonding to milk expression to development.

What are the benefits of Kangaroo Care?
It may seem like such a small thing – holding your baby close – but the technique has some magical benefits, including:

Kangaroo Care helps babies to adjust to being on the outside of the womb.
Life outside the womb is a big change for babies!

Skin-to-skin can help keep babies calm and relaxed during these big changes. And let’s not forget the calming effect it can have on parents too.

Kangaroo Care can be medically beneficial to your baby.
Alongside the psychological impact of being close to you, skin-to-skin can help regulate your baby’s temperature, heart rate, breathing, and oxygen levels.

Kangaroo Care can help to establish breastfeeding.
Not only is Kangaroo Care great for babies but for mothers wishing to breastfeed too. This close contact can help to stimulate the hormones needed to support milk production. In turn, healthy breast milk helps with baby’s physical growth and weight gain.

It’s worth noting that it’s just as important for fathers to practice Kangaroo Care! Being there for both baby and mother, Dads have a vital role to play in caring for their little miracles, and skin-to-skin can be a great place to start on the unit.

Kangaroo care can help parents develop a close bond with their baby and feel confident to look after them.
As babies grow, so do their interactions with parents. Early skin-to-skin contact helps both you and your baby develop a close bond that may have felt challenging in the environment of a unit.

This contact between baby and parents can be particularly powerful in premature babies. With the help of staff in the neonatal unit, find a good time and comfortable place to hold your little one close.

How can I start practicing Kangaroo Care?
Your first step towards Kangaroo Care is speaking to your nurses at the neonatal unit. They’ll know what will be best for your little one, where you can sit and relax with your new arrival and when might be a good time to relax together.

Natalie Robertson shares this advice: “If possible, try to practice Kangaroo Care every day in the unit. You are the one familiar to your baby in an unfamiliar environment: your voice, smell and touch are the best sensory environment for your baby.

“Relax and enjoy this special time to bond with your baby whilst you both benefit from this skin-to-skin contact.”

Kangaroo Care isn’t always possible when the baby is very premature or connected to lots of wires. If your baby is receiving care in the neonatal unit, be sure to speak to the experts caring for your baby for advice on Kangaroo Care.

Terry Fulgencio, Sister at Royal Surrey Hospital SCBU, has offered a glimpse of what Kangaroo Care looks like on a neonatal unit:

”Kangaroo Care is a top priority in our breastfeeding initiative standards of care here in SCBU at Royal Surrey Hospital. This has multiple benefits such as bonding, stabilising baby and parent physiologically and psycho-socially, sleep and growth, hormonal benefits, lactation, and establishing breastfeeding among others.

“We have been encouraging Kangaroo Care by incorporating the technique in all of our leader standard daily work for our multidisciplinary team, particularly the medical, nursing, and midwifery team. We have Kangaroo Care cards displayed on all our patient flow boards, daily ward rounds, and nursing care plans.

“Each cotside has comfortable bed-chairs that encourage parents to stay as long as they want with their babies. We advise practicing Kangaroo Care as soon as the baby is ready and to enjoy this time as much and as often as possible.

“We give out skin-to-skin information leaflets to parents and fully support them in incorporating this in their daily routine.”

What do other parents say?
Over on our social pages, we asked our amazing community of parents how Kangaroo Care in the neonatal unit made them feel, and here are some of the responses:

"Kangaroo Care was amazing. The incubator was like a wall between us and skin-to-skin made me feel so close to my baby."

"When I was having skin-to-skin with my baby, I felt useful and like I was needed."

To celebrate Kangaroo Care Day, be sure to keep an eye out for our special Kangaroo Care effects that can be added to photos!