Giving a sick or preterm baby skin-to-skin contact – usually against a parent’s chest – is called “kangaroo care,” a cute name for a vitally important practice.
To raise awareness of the method, CHOC Children’s at Mission Hospital recently held a week-long “Kangaroo-a-thon,” during which parents were encouraged to snuggle their babies as much as possible. The event was held in collaboration with Mission Hospital and March of Dimes, and recognized November as Prematurity Awareness Month.
Studies have shown that kangaroo care can help maintain an infant’s body temperature, contribute to higher blood oxygen levels, and improve sleep, breast-feeding and weight gain, says Liz Drake, a clinical nurse specialist at CHOC at Mission.
Further, parents develop stronger bonds with their new babies and gain parenting confidence, and mothers often show improved milk production, she added.
During the Kangaroo-a-thon, parents in both hospitals spent 4,550 minutes — about 76 hours — cuddling with their infants, Liz says.
The method has been adopted worldwide, and, of course, at all three CHOC Children’s neonatal intensive care units. CHOC experts promote skin-to-skin contact with even the most fragile little patients, including babies with extremely low birth weights and those on ventilators.
Technology and medicine have brought many advances in neonatology, but the touch of a parent remains a key tool in the care of sick and preterm babies. Kangaroo care is one more technique contributing to a supportive environment that helps premature babies mature and develop as they would in their mother’s womb.