Holding your baby close: Kangaroo care
Kangaroo care is the practice of holding your diapered baby on your bare chest (if you're the father) or between your breasts (if you're the mother), with a blanket draped over your baby's back. This skin-to-skin contact benefits both you and your baby.
You may be a little nervous about trying kangaroo care. If your baby is very small or sick, you may be afraid you'll hurt him. But you won't. Your baby knows your scent, touch and the rhythms of your speech and breathing, and he will enjoy feeling that closeness with you. Kangaroo care can help your baby:
- Maintain his body warmth
- Regulate his heart and breathing rates
- Gain weight
- Spend more time in deep sleep
- Spend more time being quiet and alert and less time crying
- Have a better chance of successful breastfeeding (kangaroo care can improve the mother's breast milk production)
Kangaroo care has emotional benefits for you, too. It builds your confidence as you provide intimate care that can improve your baby's health and well being. You are giving something special to your baby that only you can give. By holding your baby skin-to-skin, you will feel the experience of new parenthood and closeness to your baby. Kangaroo care is healing in many ways, for both you and your baby.
Ask your NICU staff about its policy on kangaroo care. Some NICUs postpone kangaroo care until the infant is medically stable, while others use it from birth onward. Kangaroo care is safe and beneficial, even if your baby is connected to machines. Whatever your situation, kangaroo care is a precious way to be close to your baby. You will cherish this time.
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Most common questions
Is it OK to hold my baby in the NICU?
It depends on your baby's health overall. Some newborn intensive care units (NICUs) will encourage you to hold your baby from birth onward. Other NICUs will want you to wait until your baby's health is stable. Ask your NICU staff about its policy on kangaroo care (holding your baby on your bare chest). Kangaroo care has benefits for both you and your baby. The skin-to-skin contact is a precious way to be close to your baby. You may be afraid you'll hurt him by holding him. But you won't. Your baby knows your scent, touch and the rhythms of your speech and breathing, and he’ll enjoy feeling that closeness with you.
My baby was born full term. Why is she in the NICU?
Not all newborn intensive care unit (NICU) babies are born premature. Some babies, even those born full term, may need special care. Your baby may need to spend some time in the NICU if she had a difficult delivery, has breathing problems, has infections or has birth defects.
Most babies leave the NICU just fine. Others may need more special care once they're home.