We are told of the incredible power of a mother’s touch, but how far can that extend? For one couple, it seems to have extended farther than anyone would imagine. When one of their twins, born prematurely, was pronounced dead, its mother took the child in her arms. She began to talk to the baby, hugging him skin to skin for two hours of endless love. What happened next has even the doctors believing.
The practice of holding a premature baby skin-to-skin is called “kangaroo care.” It first began in Columbia in the 1970s in response to high death rates in premature babies. It is often used when no incubators, or inadequately working incubators, are available. But it has also become common practice for all babies, because of its benefits.
The term kangaroo care comes from the kangaroo’s practice of keeping its baby, called a “joey,” in its pouch. Kangaroos are marsupials. When they give birth, the babies are relatively undeveloped. So, they climb into the mother’s pouch and attach to her nipple to grow and continue to develop. This lasts about nine months. At that point the joey only leaves the pouch for short periods of time, returning to be nursed by the mother. The joey leaves the pouch for good after about a year and a half. Animals like wallabies, wombats and koalas are also marsupials and have similar pouches for their young.
Kangaroo care involves placing the newborn in an upright position skin-to-skin against the mother or father’s chest for several hours a day. What practitioners see during kangaroo care was a stabilization of breathing, heart rate and more. Because the baby is next to the parent’s chest, his or her chest stays warm, which helps the baby breathe better. Respiratory problems from inadequately developed lungs are a major complication in premature babies.
It was precisely in this type of environment that a miracle occurred for the mother Kate, and her dead premature baby in this video. Even when doctors dismissed her initial words, she believed. And what was the outcome? You’ll have to see. We know a mother’s love is powerful!
What You Should Know About The Lifesaving “Kangaroo Care” Technique:
Kangaroo Care can really help newborns who are struggling after being born. Here are some things you should know about Kangaroo Care via handtohold.org:
Kangaroo care is a form of developmental care that has benefits for all newborns, especially those who are in the neonatal intensive care unit. Also known as skin-to-skin contact or kangaroo mother care, kangaroo care involves direct contact when a newborn is placed skin-to-skin on mom or dad’s bare chest. Mom or dad may gently hold their baby where they can be rocked, cuddled and hear comforting sounds of their parent’s heartbeat and voice. Even in the stressful environment of the NICU, parent and child can quietly bond and get to know one another. Kangaroo care is easy to do, inexpensive and highly rated by parents.
Benefits for Baby
Many of the benefits of kangaroo care to a newborn revolve around their feelings of safety, warmth and comfort. Research shows greater bonding with parents and as a result more calm and less stress, which positively impacts their brain and emotional development.
Kangaroo care can help NICU babies
Regulate their heart rate, breathing and temperature; Improve head circumference growth and weight gain; Stabilize their organ function and self-regulation abilities; Experience less pain and less crying; Facilitate better sleep patterns; Avoid infections; Take advantage of improved nutrition from mothers’ increase in breastmilk production; Be more willing to breastfeed; and, Enjoy a shorter hospital stay.
In addition to benefits that are observable in the NICU, research points to long-term advantages as well. Newborns who experienced kangaroo care in the NICU were more attached and bonded to their mothers over time. Babies were more alert after six months and their mothers were more attuned to their infant’s cues and experienced less depression. In early childhood, children receiving kangaroo care also show increased social competence, a positive sense of self and improved cognitive and motor development. These benefits are all signs of healthy brain development.
Kangaroo care usually requires a comfortable place to sit with several pillows for support and to help position the baby, though it can also be done standing up. Many hospitals provide a privacy curtain or screen to make it easier for a parent to undress from the waist up to prepare to hold their child. If a privacy screen is not available, parents may be offered a wrap or a stretchy shirt with a large neck opening that can be worn with space for baby to be tucked inside for privacy.
During kangaroo care, a baby will be undressed down to the diaper and placed directly on mom or dad’s chest. Any wires or tubes will be carefully positioned, and parent and child will be covered with a lightweight blanket or wrap to stay warm and for privacy. The nurse will likely take your baby’s temperature several times to make sure they are maintaining their temperature and will probably watch the monitors pretty closely the first few times.
Mothers Bond with Their Babies
The transition from pregnancy to a birth with complications and caring for a child in the NICU can be traumatic and stressful. Feelings of anxiety, fatigue, anger, guilt and depression, all emotions which can impact a mother’s confidence to interact with their baby, are common1. Meeting the instinctual need to hold and soothe a newborn with kangaroo care helps mothers feel needed and re-connected to their baby, which melts away stress and leaves them feeling more fulfilled and empowered. In addition, research shows mothers find it easier to bond with their infant, improving their ability to care for a medically fragile child.
Dads Have a Role to Play, too
It is not uncommon for dads to feel like a visitor or spectator when their baby is in the NICU. Moms often spend more time in the NICU and have the role of providing breast milk. Kangaroo care can empower dads so they also feel like a significant person in their infant’s life. Fathers also learn specific knowledge about caring for their baby, become a part of their schedule, and gain the nursing staff’s confidence as well by participating in skin-to-skin care. Kangaroo care is a great time for dads to practice practical skills related to caring for their child, while building a lasting bond.
Many times it feels that there are very few things you can do for your baby while in the NICU. Kangaroo care can be an opportunity for mothers and fathers to do something positive for their precious newborn. Kangaroo care is a great time to talk softly, sing or hum quietly to your baby, or sit quietly and be grateful for the small things. Ignore the monitors and concentrate on the feeling of your baby’s skin, her breath, her smell, the sweet noises, the weight of her on your chest. This is a precious moment and that hour will fly by. Before you know it you will be asking when can I do it again?
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