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Kangaroo Care: "Hold Me Close...It's Great for Both of Us"

Hello, Mommies and Daddies-to-be and all of you who are snuggling with your baby(ies) even as you peruse our website. Warmer weather is here; time to enjoy the many wonders of Spring, including colorful flowers, lush greenery, and blue skies dotted with fluffy clouds. Hopefully your days and nights are allergy free so you can actually enjoy the flowers and trees without pollen getting in the way…if not, then “Bless you!!” and here’s a box of tissues.

So I have been thinking a lot about Springtime arrivals, including new little humans, those wonderful bundles of happiness, pink cheeks, and bright eyes. Coos, giggles, smiles, and that delightful perfume of a baby’s head that just begs for kisses. But I also know babies are not always happy little campers. They may grimace with an upset tummy, tears may shower their tiny pink cheeks because something upset them, and their cries may hit perfect pitch. And you wonder what you can do to calm these screamy-meamies…and your frazzled nerves. I have an idea…

The Academy of Pediatrics and the Surgeon General are encouraging moms to practice skin-to-skin immediately after birth and throughout the postpartum period. This skin-to-skin care is also known as Kangaroo Care (KC), the formal practice of skin-to-skin contact where baby is wearing only a diaper, positioned vertically on mom’s chest, allowing for the benefits of full bare chest to bare chest contact and nerve stimulation. Holding your baby this way stimulates the C-afferent nerve, which produces a hormonal cascade, and – when practiced for an uninterrupted 60 minutes, right after birth – delivers incredible physiological and psychological benefits for both you and your baby.

The benefits for baby include:

  • Accelerated brain development

  • Reduction of cortisol (stress hormone) and crying

  • Regulation of body temperature, heart rate, and breathing

  • Increase in quality of sleep

  • Enhanced immune system

  • Stimulation of digestion and weight gain

  • An increase in breastfeeding behavior

Equally important, the practice offers benefits for mom that include:

  • A decreased risk of postpartum depression

  • Increased milk production

  • Increased pain tolerance

  • Higher levels of psychological well-being

  • Reduction in postpartum bleeding, cortisol levels and blood pressure

Here’s the great thing about Kangaroo Care; anyone can do it! Dads, grandparents, siblings, and adoptive parents can provide the human-to-human touch that triggers nerve stimulation on the front of the chest. This seemingly magical touch does not have to occur only when mom and baby are lying down in bed. Baby can be held in the KC position even while mom is up on her feet and moving around, as long as baby is secure, supported and in the correct KC position.

Kangaroo Care is encouraged immediately after birth, throughout the hospital stay, and well after discharge. Families are encouraged to practice Skin-to-Skin for an uninterrupted 60 minutes during the first 12 weeks and beyond. The Academy of Pediatrics recommends Skin-to-Skin be given as long as possible and during the postpartum period, which is typically defined as the first 3 months of life.

If a breastfeeding mom is experiencing what she perceives as a low milk supply, the cascade of hormones that mother experiences from this kangaroo care (skin-to-skin, baby’s bare chest on mom’s bare chest), can boost milk production. If baby is allowed to root and search for mom’s breast, many latching problems can be avoided or resolved as baby is latching on naturally.

Kangaroo Care is not only for breastfeeding moms. All moms can practice skin-to-skin regardless of their infant feeding choice. The benefits received while holding baby in KC occur independently of breastfeeding. The beneficial hormonal cascade does not occur while breastfeeding. Please go ahead and enjoy some special cuddle time with your little one…skin-to-skin…you both will benefit!

So, remember the screamy-meamie I spoke of earlier? The baby who just cannot be consoled? Why not try some Kangaroo Care. It may just be the magic touch you both need.

Happy Kangaroo Care, Everyone!

Hope “I believe in KC” Ouellette, CLC

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