May 15th is International Kangaroo Cuddle Awareness day so there’s no better time to share some information on this great practise.

Kangaroo Cuddling was pioneered in Columbia in the 1970s by a pediatrician who was looking for a way to keep premature babies warm in an area that was too poor to have incubators.

In past years many paediatricians believed premature babies needed to be isolated to conserve their strength.  Now inspiration has been taken from kangaroos and other marsupials that nurture their young in a pouch. Kangaroo care has now become much more than a way to keep babies warm and multiple studies have proven that it has a number of benefits for parents and for babies (see links below).

Once babies are well enough, they are taken out of their incubators and placed on their parent’s chest, usually under their clothes, so the baby gets skin-to-skin contact and can hear the parent’s heartbeat.  This closeness provides a warm and soothing environment and helps the parent feel closer to their baby.  Some studies suggest that kangarooing may result in physical benefits, fewer breathing problems, less energy-wasting fidgeting, faster weight gain and a more constant body temperature.  

A lot of babies seem to improve when they’re being held by their parents.  They’ve been listening to these voices in the womb and even the smallest babies recognise their families, and babies who are happier tend to do better.  It is also suggested that talking to your baby while kangaroo cuddling is especially good as the vibrations through your chest assist.  

NB. If you have a very young or sick baby, do ask your nurse if you baby is ready for kangaroo cuddles yet.

 

The benefits of Kangaroo cuddles are so great and The Neonatal Trust has played a part in providing maternity chairs in a number of NICUs across New Zealand. Recent examples include:

   Taranaki gets new maternity chairs

   Canterbury NICU gets new chairs

 

For details of the history and the benefits of kangaroo cuddles, check out these links:

http://journals.lww.com/advancesinneonatalcare/Fulltext/2008/06001/Kangaroo_Care.1.aspx

http://preemies.about.com/od/parentingyourpreemie/a/Kangaroo-Care.htm

http://www.elsevier.com/about/press-releases/research-and-journals/the-loving-touch-is-critical-for-premature-infants

http://phenomena.nationalgeographic.com/2013/10/10/kangaroo-mothers-and-the-power-of-touch/