Bonding With Your New Baby? 4 Kangaroo Care Benefits

Easing your child’s transition from womb to world

Bonding With Your New Baby? 4 Kangaroo Care Benefits

You know that a new baby can open a new chapter in your life — it changes just about everything. But you can make the transition oh-so-sweet for both you and your baby by snuggling up and taking the time for skin-to-skin contact several times a week.

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Sometimes called kangaroo care (it simulates a mother kangaroo’s pouch), the practice offers many benefits for newborn babies, mothers and fathers alike. It’s easy. Just hold your baby (naked, except for a diaper) against your bare chest and cover him or her up.

The idea of kangaroo care was developed in Columbia in the 1970s to help counter steep premature infant-mortality rates. Now many doctors and midwives recommend it for both premature and full-term babies.

Certified nurse midwife Shellie Hawk describes the benefits of skin-to-skin contact and offers step-by-step instructions to help you and your newborn get the most from this incredible bonding experience.

How does kangaroo care help your baby (and you)?

“Birth is a big shock for babies,” Ms. Hawk says. “Practicing kangaroo care, especially just after your baby is born, helps ease the transition from the womb (a warm, comfortable, quiet place) to the considerably colder and louder outside world.”

It offers many benefits for newborns, including:

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1. Helps stabilize your newborn. Particularly for premature babies, practicing kangaroo care can help improve oxygen saturation levels (how much oxygen travels throughout the body), which helps stabilize heart and breathing rates.

2. Improves baby’s sleep. Kangaroo care, which aims to mimic the womb, is a comforting experience for your baby. Most babies fall asleep within minutes of being placed on their mother or father’s chest, Ms. Hawk says.

3. Enhances growth and weight gain. Skin-to-skin contact helps regulate your baby’s body temperature. The less energy your baby uses for temperature control, the more energy it can direct toward weight gain and growth activities.

4. Better for breastfeeding. “When a baby is placed on her mom’s stomach, she actually crawls forward searching for mom’s breast,” Ms. Hawk says. So skin-to-skin contact helps you and your baby establish a breastfeeding routine sooner, and also helps increase milk production, she says.

Benefits for moms (and dads)

Babies aren’t the only ones who benefit from kangaroo care, Ms. Hawk says.

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As with breastfeeding, kangaroo care can boost oxytocin, a feel-good hormone that can counter the estrogen and progesterone drop that occurs after you deliver, she says.

Additionally, kangaroo care can improve bonding between you and your baby and boost your confidence as a caregiver. (These benefits work for dads, too.)

Kangaroo care: Tips for success

Kangaroo care works best in a quiet environment without bright lights. Before you get started, turn lights down and keep the environment as quiet as possible. Then, get ready to “kangaroo” with your baby:

  • Remove your shirt and bra and replace with a shirt that zips or buttons up the front (or a hospital gown that opens in the front).
  • Place your baby (wearing only a diaper and hat) stomach down on your chest in an upright position.
  • Cover your baby with a receiving blanket or your shirt.
  • Hold your baby kangaroo-style for one hour, at least four times per week.

“No matter how you deliver, kangaroo care can create a serene, comfortable bonding experience that can help overcome even a difficult delivery experience,” Ms. Hawk says.

Want to kangaroo with your baby right after delivery? Be sure to let your provider know ahead of time and include it as part of your birth plan.

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