If there was one thing that I wish I would have known from my first pregnancy to my second, it would be all the scientific data that supports Kangaroo Care. Sure, snuggling and wearing my baby close feels (and smells) great, but the data that supports the advantages is really overwhelming. I just want to shout from the rooftops, “Be a Kangaroo, Yo!” Thankfully, our edu-bloggess, Katie (the great), has put together a primer on Kangaroo Care and skin-to-skin so I can not-so-subtly share this post with everyone I know (instead of literally shouting, that’s just rude and new parents don’t respond well to it). Take it away, Katie!!
Kangaroo care and skin-to-skin are phrases that are perhaps familiar to many caregivers and in November, we’ll be exploring what it means and how it can be beneficial to all babies and caregivers, as well as how babywearing can help facilitate it!
What does kangaroo care mean, exactly? Kangaroo care is the practice of holding your baby skin to skin on your chest with no clothing separating you. It can begin shortly after birth, and continuous practice provides many benefits for both baby and caregiver. Kangaroo care is typically what it is referred to when doing it while seated and is what is most common in the hospital setting. Skin-to-skin is the term used when caregiver and baby can be mobile. Kangaroo care and skin-to-skin can be beneficial for both pre-term and full term infants and can be done by any caregiver for baby.
-The regulation of heart rate, body temperature, breathing, and organ function.
– Encouraging better and deeper sleep.
-It can be emotionally regulating and soothing to hear a caregiver’s voice, heartbeat, and breathing.
-It can encourage baby to breastfeed and improve weight gain.
-It can shorten hospital stay for premature infants.
-Reduce the risk of infection.
-Reduce stress for caregivers and increase attachment to baby.
-Benefits continue for months and even years into childhood!
The World Health Organization Kangaroo Mother Care Guide also describes several benefits for caregivers, including:
-Increased confidence, self esteem, and feeling of fulfillment.
-Increased confidence when feeding baby.
-Improved bonding between caregiver and baby.
Now that we know about all of the amazing benefits provided by keeping baby close, comforted, and secure via skin to skin contact, let’s explore how babywearing and kangaroo care go hand in hand and can help you continue the practice after birth! While kangaroo care can be done without a carrier by just placing baby on your chest with a blanket or even your shirt, babywearing can be a valuable tool for it! Babywearing is especially helpful when wanting to practice skin to skin and have the option of walking around if need be. When using a baby carrier to facilitate skin-to-skin, caregivers should either be shirtless or dressed in an unbuttoned shirt. Babies should be undressed except for a diaper, and a light blanket may be used over their back to keep them warm. Ensure that minimal fabric from the carrier is between baby and caregiver.
Important safety tips to keep in mind when wearing your baby:
-Close enough to kiss.
-Face is visible at all times.
-The carrier properly supports the natural curve of baby’s spine and prevents slumping.
Often a good choice for pre-term and full term newborns, babywearing shirts are worn exactly like a shirt with a specialized pocket for holding baby in the preferred chest to chest position for kangaroo care. They are size-specific and generally easiest to use in the seated position or with additional hand support when walking.
Providing the softness and comfort of a favorite shirt, stretchy wraps are a great choice for full-term infants. Stretchy wraps are available in several big box stores and come from a variety of manufacturers such as Moby, Boba, Wrapsody Stretch Hybrid, and the ACK Wrap.
Pocket Wrap Cross Carry is a fantastic carry to start with when using your stretchy wrap for kangaroo care.
Ring slings can be used with pre-term or full term infants for kangaroo care and skin-to-skin. To insure that minimal fabric rests between you and baby, legs out positioning can be the easiest way to accomplish that.
Woven wraps are a good choice for pre-term and full term infants, and there are a variety of carry positions that can be used for kangaroo care and skin-to-skin. Front wrap cross carry or one of its variations is a suitable carry for newborns and young infants.
Every day we’re learning more and more about the amazing benefits of kangaroo care and what an incredible tool it can be for caregivers to grow the bond with their baby. From physiological to emotional benefits, kangaroo care has the power to help babies and caregivers thrive! Babywearing is the perfect way to incorporate kangaroo care when caring for your baby and there are many great options for each baby and caregiver. We welcome all caregivers to join us for the month of November to discuss kangaroo care during the 102 portion of our meetings!
Additional resources on Kangroo Care and Skin To Skin:
Midwifery Today Article on Kangaroo Care