Kangaroo Care

Bonding with your baby

Kangaroo care is a special way of holding your baby, skin-to-skin, that’s beneficial to both baby and parents. The name reflects the way a mother kangaroo holds her baby in her pouch. Kangaroo care provides special bonding time and can help your baby thrive. Even very small or sick babies can benefit from kangaroo care. If you would like to provide this type of touch, the nurse will work with you to find the best time and show you how to position your baby. You’ll receive all the support you need to hold your baby safely.

Benefits of kangaroo care

  • Helps keep heart rate, breathing and temperature stable
  • Warms baby faster than an incubator
  • Improves oxygen flow in the blood
  • Decreases breathing pauses (apnea)
  • Calms baby — less crying, more security, less stress
  • Improves sleep
  • Reduces risk of brain bleeds from delicate blood vessels
  • Offers better emotional development and sensory experiences that include smell, taste, touch, hearing and movement
  • Provides balance and increased muscle support
  • Naturally leads to breastfeeding due to close skin-to-skin contact
  • Causes faster weight gain through improved feeding
  • Helps many babies go home earlier; smaller babies are discharged up to 50% sooner
  • Strengthens the immune system so baby has fewer infections

Providing kangaroo care

Kangaroo Care improves interaction and milk supply and provides better bonding. You’ll pick up on your baby’s cues or signs while boosting your confidence as a parent. Additionally, parents are calmer and have less depression when coping with a baby in the NICU.

Our team will work with you to determine when your baby is ready for kangaroo care. You may be able to provide kangaroo care as soon as your baby is ready to be moved from the bed — even if your baby has monitors, IVs or breathing tubes from the nose or mouth attached. Wear a loose, open-front shirt big enough for your baby to be placed onto your chest and then covered with a blanket or cloth. Babies should be held for a minimum of 60–90 minutes during skin-to-skin, but they may be held for up to 4 hours if they are stable.

While sleeping, your baby's airway tube(s) must be secured and body fully supported on your chest. Handle your baby gently by folding its legs and arms with hands close to the mouth. A firm, still touch is best, especially if your baby is premature. Watch for signs of overstimulation, such as yawning, sneezing, squirming or frowning; if you see these signs, decrease stimulation by holding quietly without talking, singing or rocking.

A good time to start skin-to-skin is before, during (30 minutes) and after (1 hour) a tube feeding. If your baby has an endotracheal tube and tries to turn its head, gently hold your baby still and call the nurse for assistance. Twins may be held by one or both parents if they are without infection.

If, for some reason, your baby cannot participate in kangaroo care, we’ll work with you to find other ways to provide comfort.