Kangaroo care was created by Edgar Rey, a Colombian pediatrician, in 1978 as a solution to caring for babies in his care since in the hospital he worked in there weren’t enough incubators. Plus, even the incubators they had were inadequate. So, he told the mothers to place their babies skin-to-skin for hours at at time. And what happened was amazing – the babies in kangaroo care began to truly thrive. And as a result this type of care was formally developed in Colombia as a way to care for babies and today it continues not just there, but also all around the world.
There are many evidence-based reasons why kangaroo works. Here’s a throughout list of benefits from the University College London Department of Psychology.
Babies spend more time in quiet sleep (Acolet et al., 1989) and this result persists after 6 months (Gale et al., 1993)
Longer alert states and less crying at 6 months (Whitelaw et al., 1988)
Their heart rate is lower and more stable (Ludington et al., 1996)
Apnea and bradycardia decrease (Fohe et al., 2000)
Body temperature is maintained and oxygenation and gas exchange improves (Fischer et al, 1998; Ludington & Golant, 1993; Acolet et al., 1989; Bauer et al., 1996; Fohe et al., 2000)
Improvement of arousal regulation and stress reactivity (Michelsson et al., 1996; Mooncey et al., 1997)
Analgesic effect during painful medical procedure (Gray, Watt, & Blass, 2000)
Prolonged and augmented breastfeeding rates (Charpark, Figueroa, & Ruiz, 1998; Ramanathan et al., 2001)
Faster growth rates and earlier discharge from hospital (Kambrani, Chdede, & Kowo, 1999)
Mothers reported more positive feelings towards the baby and lower maternal stress (Tallandini & Scalembra, 2006)
Mother had a better sense of their parenting role (Affonso et al.,1993)
Mothers were less depressed (Feldman, 2002)
Perceived their infant as less abnormal (Feldman, 2002)
Increased maternal behavior during hospitalization period (Feldman, 2002)
Mothers felt more confident and competent in meeting their baby needs (Tessier et al., 1998)
Babies were more alert and more responsive (Feldman et al., 2002; Tessier et al., 1998; Tallandini & Scalembra, in press)
Babies had higher developmental rates (Feldman et al., 2002)
Babies improved their abilities to make understandable requests and to make appropriate responses to maternal stimulation (Tallandini & Scalembra, 2006)
Following KC procedure being adopted by the mother, mother and father were more sensitive and less intrusive, the family style was more cohesive positive and it has shown a long term positive effect on the whole family environment (Feldman et al., 2003)
While kangaroo care started by placing babies on their mother’s chest, we know that fathers can also be very beneficial to their babies, when they too practice kangaroo care with their little ones. Many dads find it a comforting way to bond with their baby.
It’s easy to practice kangaroo care. Simply place baby directly skin-to-skin on you and then cover baby with warm blankets. You can also use a wrap for kangaroo care. While any amount of kangaroo care has it’s benefits, in developing countries it’s recommended for 24 hours or more for new babies and in developed countries (like the USA) it’s recommended for at least 2 hours a day.
And while it’s most beneficial to babies that need an extra boost, it also can be a beautiful way to spend the time with your thriving baby while doing kangaroo care at home.