Kangaroo Care Promotes Growth, Bonding

By Katrina Dupins

Kangaroo Care, the name for skin-to-skin contact with a preterm baby, has a positive physical that goes beyond strengthening a bond, researchers say.

“In the best of circumstances, Kangaroo care provides unlimited benefits for parent and baby,” said BJ Thorn, a neonatal intensive care (NICU) nurse and mother of twins who spent time in the NICU.

“During the pandemic, parents have been thrust into an unprecedented situation of visitor restrictions and limited access to support persons as well as caring for babies in a time where the future is uncertain. The biological benefits for Kangaroo Care are seeded deep in the parent/ child dynamic. Our families need bonding outlets now more than ever.”

Kangaroo Day

Sara Peeples, M.D., Medical Director of the UAMS NICU, commemorates Kangaroo Care Day May 15.

Amanda Craver says she looks forward to Kangaroo Care with her 1-week old daughter every day.

“She just curls up against me and I can feel her breathing slow down,” Craver said. “It’s nice to smell her hair and feel her against my skin, just the two of us.”

Caroline June was born May 11 at 32 weeks, weighing 4 lbs., 3 ozs. Craver’s water broke at 27 weeks. She was hospitalized since April 4 as they tried to keep the baby from being born as long as possible.

“I spent a lot of time in the hospital before the baby was born” Craver said. “It was an emotional time when I got ready to deliver. All the nurses came to say goodbye to me. They had become like my family since we aren’t allowed visitors.”

Craver lives in Mt. Ida, two hours away. She has a 15-year-old daughter she hasn’t seen in person for more than six weeks. Her husband has only been able to see his baby daughter on the day she was born. Though this time has been challenging for the whole family, she says it helps her to refocus on what is important and what she can control: bond with her newborn and help her grow and develop by providing Kangaroo Care.

“I do it every day, sometimes twice a day,” Craver said.

Kangaroo Care helps with a baby’s brain development, breathing and heartbeat. Researchers say the contact also helps with their immune systems and helps increase mom’s milk supply.

“As a team, we can provide updates and use of the Angel Eye camera, but the one thing we cannot replicate is the importance of families providing their basic need of holding for their babies,” Thorn said. “The bonds we encourage will benefit baby and parent for life. When they look back on this NICU experience we don’t want them to only remember the stress endured but on the precious moments they had holding their babies skin to skin.”