Kangaroo Care Technique

Mothers and newborns around the world use kangaroo care. The premise is that like a baby kangaroo, baby humans are underdeveloped at birth and go straight from the umbilical cord to the nipple and continue its development just like a baby kangaroo. Instead of having a pouch that you carry your baby in and keep skin to skin and close to the breast human mothers for centuries use baby slings and wraps to simulate a mother kangaroo.

Studies show that premature babies who are kangaroo cared for make marked improvements in recoveries and shorter stays in NICU than those stuck in an incubator isolated and alone.  More information and great DVD's on this can be found on line at Geddes productions.

What is Kangaroo Care?

Kangaroo care is a method of holding a baby that involves skin-to-skin contact. The baby, who is naked except for a diaper and a piece of cloth covering his or her back (either a receiving blanket or the parent's clothing), is placed in an upright position against a parent's bare chest. This snuggling of the infant inside the pouch of their parent's shirt, much like a kangaroo's pouch, led to the creation of the term "kangaroo care."

Wrap Instructions: Kangaroo Care with a Wrap

How did kangaroo care come about?

Kangaroo care came about as a response to the high death rate in pre term babies seen in Bogota, Columbia, in the late 1970s. There, the death rate for premature infants was 70 percent. The babies were dying of infections, respiratory problems, and simply due to lack of attention. Researchers found that babies who were held close to their mothers' bodies for large portions of the day, not only survived, but thrived. In the United States, hospitals that encourage kangaroo care typically have their mothers or fathers provide skin-to-skin contact with their pre term babies for several hours each day.
What are the benefits of kangaroo care?

  • Stabilization of the baby's heart rate
  • Improved (more regular) breathing pattern
  • Improved oxygen saturation levels (an indicator of how well oxygen is being delivered to all the infants organs and tissues)
  • Gain in sleep time
  • More rapid weight gain
  • Decreased crying
  • More successful breastfeeding episodes
  • Earlier hospital discharge
  • Improved bonding, feelings of closeness with their babies
  • Increased breast milk supply
  • Increased confidence in ability to care for their babies
  • Increased confidence that their babies are well cared for Increased sense of control
  • Why does kangaroo care work?The benefits of kangaroo care listed above have all been demonstrated in research studies. In fact, studies have found that skin-to-skin holding stabilizes heart and respiratory rates, improves oxygen saturation rates, better regulates an infant's body temperature, and conserves a baby's calories.

When a mother is kangarooing, the infant typically snuggles into the breast and falls asleep within a few minutes. The breasts themselves have been shown to change in temperature to accommodate a baby body's changing temperature needs. In other words, the breast can increase in temperature when the infant's body is cool and can decrease in temperature as the baby is warmed. The extra sleep that the infant gets snuggling with mom and the assistance in regulating body temperature helps the baby conserve energy and redirects calorie expenditures toward growth and weight gain. Being positioned on mom also helps to stabilize the infant's respiratory and heart rates. Finally, research has also shown that kangaroo care results in positive effects on brain development.References

  • Ludington-Hoe, S.M. and Golant, S.K. (1993)
  • Kangaroo Care: The Best You Can Do for Your Premature Infant
  • New York: Bantam Books
  • Ludington, S.M. (1997)
  • Conference presentation, with mention of research in progress
  • Ludington, S.M.
  • Kangaroo Care Bibliography
  • Current to March 1997