Premature babies, or preemies, are not only a lot smaller than other newborns, but they were also born before developing organs mature enough for normal postnatal survival. Unexpectedly snapped out of the warm and protecting surroundings of the womb, they have to face a new environment that they’re not yet ready for. To make these tiny babies feel as sheltered as possible, Kangaroo Care was introduced in the 1970s.
Inspired by Kangaroo mothers (their minutely sized babies emerge after a short 30-day gestation period and stay in the mother’s pouch for up to half a year), kangarooing a preemie emphasizes the same kind of close contact with the newborn. Wearing just a diaper and covered by a blanket or other piece of cloth, the baby is placed in an upright position with maximal skin-to-skin contact on a caregiver’s chest.
Kangaroo care helps to stabilize not only the body temperature of these infants but also heart rate. The method has been proven by several research studies to result in more regular breathing patterns, improved oxygen saturation levels, better sleep, and faster weight gain (the extra sleep and temperature regulation helps conserve energy and redirect calorie expenditure toward facilitating growth). It has even been shown to have positive effects on the development of the brain.
Nowadays, kangaroo care is widely used in neonatal intensive care units around the world.
In our infant care homes, the medical staff and nannies have been practicing Kangaroo Care with babies having trouble regulating body temperature for a while now. Kate, a medical volunteer, introduced the kangaroo care method as basic treatment for preemies. Each session can last anywhere from 45 minutes to 3 hours.
“It is an amazing experience to feel the change a child can undergo while lying on your chest. After the first few minutes, you can soon feel their breathing rate is slowing down, and how their heart rate is adapts to your own stable, steady heart rate,” says Kate.
Kangarooing these babies also helps our staff to better observe them, get a feeling for their evolving condition, and immediately recognize any changes that might have occurred. Of course, it’s also a unique bonding experience for our staff and our babies.