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What is Kangaroo Care?

Mother holding baby while sleeping

Kangaroo Care was started in Bogota, Colombia in 1979 as a response to the problems of caring for premature infants. A severe lack of equipment and supplies led to many babies dying as a result of poor nutrition and infection. Isolating the infants from their parents was resulting in infant abandonment and fewer mothers were breastfeeding, the preferred source of nutrition in developing countries.

Modified for more developed countries such as Sweden , England and the U.S., Kangaroo Care consists of intimate skin to skin contact between infants and parents. Promoting early opportunities for handling premature and other hospitalized infants decreases parental stress and anxiety in the NICU. The infant begins to identify their parents by voice, style of handling, scent, and by the love only a parent can provide. If the mother has chosen to breastfeed, kangarooing provides the mother with early transition into breastfeeding. The skin to skin contact is also an important emotional stimuli that can improve milk production while the mother is pumping breast milk.

In the NICU, with guidance from your baby's nurse, you will lift your baby (wearing only a diaper) to your bare chest.The warmth of the parent's chest, plus a hat on the infant's head and a warmed blanket over his/her back, provides adequate heat. In an environment full of intensity, this is a unique way of restoring a key ingredient of the healing process. There is no substitute for the loving touch of a parent.

How should I prepare for Kangarooing?

A videotape of a set of NICU parents kangarooing their infant is also available at any time, and you should view it before kangarooing.

Though no increased rate of infection has been observed among Kangarooed infants, it is recommended that parents bathe daily. For mothers typical dress consists of loose fitting front opening blouses, gowns, dresses and no bra or one that opens in the front to provide the infants with direct skin to skin contact. Fathers may begin with front button down shirts and progress towards polo like shirts that create a modified pocket carrier for the infant.

When is the best time to begin Kangarooing?

Kangarooing should be initiated as soon as the parents are oriented and the baby is stable. If your baby has any type of arterial IV line (umbilical artery line, tibial artery catheter or femoral IV), may not participate until it is removed. Infants on the ventilator with a central line or peripheral IV may Kangaroo according to the policy approved by the NICU Medical Director. Discussion with your bedside nurse will inform you of the right and wrong time for kangarooing. When you first start kangarooing, it is helpful to contact the bedside nurse before you visit and discuss kangarooing for your planned visit. She can suggest the best time for kangarooing, as well as plan to be available to you when you visit. As you progress with kangarooing, you will become less dependent on the nurse to assist you, but it is helpful for the nurse in planning your infant's care, to know of your kangaroo plans.

What are some of the reasons why I could not Kangaroo my baby?

As you are just beginning to kangaroo, it is important for the nurse to assist you in understanding your infant's tolerance of kangarooing. The nurse is ultimately responsible for your infant's care while he/she is hospitalized in the NICU. If your infant is felt to be unstable enough to participate based on unstable respiratory status, feeding intolerance or signs and symptoms of infection, kangarooing might be discouraged that day.

Each family involved in Kangarooing responds differently. Each family will approached by the nursing staff as an individual and together develop a personalized approach to kangarooing.

Your decision for or against participation in Kangarooing will not affect your ability to interact with your infant. You will still be offered opportunities to hold and nurture your baby as soon as possible. Kangarooing is meant to be an enjoyable option in the NICU. Any infant who fits the criteria as previously stated is eligible for participation.

If you have any questions, feel free to discuss them with your baby's nurse.


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