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Skin-to-Skin Care (Kangaroo Care)

SILKWhat is Skin-to-Skin Care?
Skin-to-Skin Care is a special way of holding your baby. It is also called Kangaroo Care. It gets its name from the way a mother kangaroo carries her baby in her pouch. The NICU is a high-tech world with many things that separate you from your baby. Kangaroo care is a way for you to spend special time bonding with your baby. It is one of the best ways you can help your baby become more stable and grow. Kangaroo Care can be done with both premature and full term babies.

What are the benefits of Skin-to-Skin Care?
Research has shown that Kangaroo Care has many benefits for babies and parents.
Benefits for baby:

  • Premature babies gain weight faster
  • Babies cry less and sleep better throughout the day
  • Heart rates, breathing patterns, and body temperature becomes more stable
  • Decreased oxygen requirements
  • Premature babies come out of incubators and into cribs sooner
  • Babies feed earlier and more successfully
  • Kangaroo Care promotes breastfeeding
  • Earlier discharge from the hospital

Benefits for mom:

  • Improves infant/parent bonding
  • Increased breast milk supply
  • Parents become more confident in caring for their baby
  • Parents feel more involved in their infant's care

Why does Kangaroo Care work?
Typically, during Kangaroo Care, the infant snuggles into the breast and falls asleep in a few minutes. The breasts themselves have been shown to change temperature to accommodate a baby's changing temperature needs. The extra sleep the baby gets with mom and the assistance in regulating body temperature helps baby conserve energy and redirects calories towards growth and weight gain. Being positioned on mom helps stabilize respiratory and heart rates. The upright positioning on mom during Kangaroo Care also improves digestion. Research also shows positive effects on brain development. Early exposure to mom's breasts also improves breastfeeding.

When can my baby participate in Kangaroo Care?
Most NICU babies can participate in Kangaroo care, although there are some exceptions. Infants who are not medically stable, or who have had a sudden deterioration in condition within the past 24 hours, will not be eligible for Kangaroo Care. In addition, babies who are on an oscillator ventilator are not allowed to perform Kangaroo Care. Other restrictions may apply, depending on your baby's medical status. Your baby's nurses and physicians can help you decide if your baby is ready for Kangaroo Care. If you are interested in this special "cuddle time", please talk with your baby's nurses.

How is Kangaroo Care done?
Both mothers and fathers can participate in Kangaroo Care. It is easiest when the parent wears a button-down shirt. You may leave one at your baby's bedside for this purpose. Mothers are encouraged to remove their bras. Babies wear only a diaper and a hat. The parent's shirt is opened and the baby is placed in an upright position directly on the parent's chest. Baby's head is turned and placed above the parent's heart. The shirt and blanket are placed on top of the baby. Privacy screens will be positioned around you during Kangaroo care. During this time, please do not play with your baby. It is important for your baby to rest during this time. Parents should not wear strong perfume or smoke before participating in Kangaroo Care.

How will my baby react to Kangaroo Care?
Your baby may take a few minutes to settle in and become stable. A nurse will monitor your baby's vital signs during the transition and during Kangaroo Care. Once settled, most babies become very comfortable and fall asleep. Although you may become very comfortable as well, it is important that you stay awake. Kangaroo Care should be done for at least an hour, if the baby can tolerate it.

What time of day is best to do Kangaroo Care?
If Kangaroo Care is right for your baby, we will ask you to arrive a half an hour before their feeding or nursing cares time, day or night. Please do not arrive during the nursing change of shift times for kangaroo care (6:30-7:30 am, 2:30-3:30 pm, 6:30-7:30 pm, and 10:30-11:30 pm). We will also ask you to be available to hold your baby for 1 hour to experience the full benefits of the skin-to-skin care. The nurse will continually monitor your baby. If your baby is having trouble tolerating it, your nurse may discontinue the kangaroo care early.

Can my baby Kangaroo Care on a regular ventilator?
Yes, as long as your baby is stable. The physician and nurse will help you decide if your baby can tolerate Kangaroo Care. If your baby is on a ventilator, their nurse will determine the best way to transfer your baby from the isolette onto your chest. A video is available for you to review to teach you how Kangaroo care is done with your baby on a ventilator.


The Chester County Hospital Lactaction Consultants: 610.738.2582

The Chester County Hospital NICU's Support in Lactation and Kangaroo Care (SILK) program was created in 2010. It is adapted from the UCSD SPIN Program 9/08.

Last Updated: 6/23/2011