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Kangaroo Care for the Preemie by Paige Arndt

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Almost anyone who plans to be a parent has an ideal experience in mind.  They will get pregnant easily, have a non-incidental pregnancy, carry the baby to full-term, have a normal (pain-free) delivery, and go home, with baby-in-tow, within days of delivering their healthy bundle of joy.  This picture-perfect experience leads to an easier time of bonding between the baby and parent because the parent cares for and holds the baby as often as they like.

A full-term baby has the privilege of being in utero, the ultimate developmental place, for the time required to develop all of his/her organ systems.  However, when a baby is born prematurely, some of the most vital organ systems have not fully developed and his/her development has to continue outside of the uterus in a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU).  The NICU is not anything like the uterus, nor is it the ideal setting for a baby to continue his/her development.  It is cold, bright, loud, and obtrusive.  Much research is being conducted on ways to assist the preemie develop as if he/she were still in the uterus.  Some of these methods include special beds, called Giraffe Beds, that use temperature and humidity settings to replicate the conditions that would be inside the uterus, special wraps called DandleROOs (or DandleWRAPS for more stable babies) used in positioning, holding, and bathing the baby, along with many other techniques and methods to help the preemie with growth, development, especially of the brain, and healing.

All of these devices are wonderful, but what about the parents’ bonding with their baby?  It is difficult for the parents and the baby to bond when the baby is hooked up to breathing machines, feeding tubes, under a covered bed, etc.  One way to remedy this situation is to get the parents involved in any care they can give the baby, i.e. helping with feeding and changing diapers.  But one of the most effective methods is Kangaroo Care.

Kangaroo Care was first implemented by neonatologists Edgar Rey and Hector Martinez in Bogota, Columbia.  The method consists of one of the parents holding the baby skin-to-skin.   The baby, clothed in just a diaper, is held upright on the parent’s bare chest, between the breasts, tummy-to-tummy.  The closeness of the baby to the mother’s (or father’s) heart stimulates the baby’s breathing.  This skin-to-skin contact helps regulate the baby’s temperature.  The baby, depending on his stability, can be held for hours.

Much research has been and is currently being conducted on the benefits of Kangaroo Care, especially for premature babies.  The benefits for the premature baby include stimulation of breathing, temperature regulation, bonding with the parents, regulation of heart and respiratory rates, calming and relieving of the baby’s stress, increased production of the mother’s breast milk, sounder sleep, help with pain reduction, less time on ventilators and supplemental oxygen, a shorter stay in the NICU, help with normalizing the growth rate, and less risk of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome).

Kangaroo Care has many benefits for the premature baby and his/her parents.  It is a “no-cost” method in helping the premature baby not only bond with his/her parents but to grow and develop and eventually leave the obtrusive setting of a NICU and travel home with his/her parents, to where he/she ideally belongs.


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