Learning About Kangaroo Care
What is kangaroo care?
Kangaroo care is the skin-to-skin holding of an infant on or next to your chest. It's a special way of bonding and getting to know your newborn. The name comes from how a kangaroo mother uses her pouch to carry her baby next to her skin. Moms and dads can do kangaroo care. In fact, anyone can hold an infant this way. You can start in the hospital and keep doing it when you are home.
What are the benefits?
Holding your baby skin-to-skin has emotional and physical benefits for both you and your baby. Holding and touching brings you and your newborn close to each other and adds to the bonding process.
You bond naturally with your baby just by spending time together. Holding and caring for your baby teaches your baby to trust you. A strong bond builds a foundation for positive relationships throughout your child's life.
Kangaroo care may help your baby to:
- Stay warm.
- Steady their heartbeat and breathing.
- Sleep better and longer.
- Gain weight.
- Cry less.
- Feel comforted.
Kangaroo care may help you to:
- Gain confidence in caring for your baby.
- Feel close to your baby.
- Increase milk flow if you are breastfeeding.
- Decrease stress you may be feeling if your child is sick or underweight.
How is it done?
Find a comfortable position. You can hold your baby while you sit in bed. Or you can use a chair or rocker.
Simply hold your baby upright on your chest, skin-to-skin. All your baby needs to wear is a diaper. You can wear a loose shirt, a shirt that opens down the front, or even no shirt. Place a shawl or blanket around your shoulders. If you like, you can drape a blanket over the baby's back for more warmth.
Whether you hold your baby for a few minutes or a few hours, you will both benefit from this warm cuddling.
Kangaroo care in the NICU
Check with the hospital staff about when and how to hold your baby. Depending on your child's condition, you may need to wait. But skin-to-skin holding can be good for babies who are sick or underweight. Even if your baby is attached to feeding and breathing machines, you may be able to do kangaroo care.
The staff knows that you want to hold your baby as soon as possible. They will help make this happen.
Follow-up care is a key part of your child's treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse advice line (811 in most provinces and territories) if your child is having problems. It's also a good idea to know your child's test results and keep a list of the medicines your child takes.
Current as of: September 20, 2021
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:Thomas Emmett Francoeur MD MDCM, CSPQ, FRCPC - Pediatrics & Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine & Jennifer Merchant MD - Neonatal-Perinatal Medicine