Every year on May 15, advocates educate and raise awareness for skin-to-skin contact on International Kangaroo Care Awareness Day. Also known as kangaroo care, skin-to-skin contact encourages everyone to embrace this important practice between newborns and mothers immediately after birth, especially those in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU).
The term “kangaroo care” got its name from the type of care a kangaroo mother provides their infant. A kangaroo mother has a little pouch on the front if its body. This little pouch acts as a second womb. When a joey, or baby kangaroo, is inside the pouch, it stays warm and protected. In addition, the pouch also offers a cozy environment in which to grow. Just like a mother kangaroo, a human mother can offer the same security.
During the first moments and days after a birth, a mother places their infant onto her chest and covers the baby with a blanket. This skin-to skin contact between baby and mother helps babies thrive. Though kangaroo care is primarily done in the NICU where premature babies need a lot of extra care, many hospitals have implemented this practice as part of the birthing process. In some instances, a caregiver provides the contact just as well as a birth mother can.
There are many evidence-based health benefits for skin-to-skin contact between baby and mother. For example, kangaroo care helps premature babies gain weight more quickly. Some other benefits for the baby include:
- Stabilizing heart rate and body temperature.
- Improving breathing pattern and oxygen saturation levels.
- Improving sleep patterns.
- Decreases crying and reduces stress.
- Increases the success rate of breastfeeding.
- Increases chances of an earlier discharge from the NICU.
Kangaroo care is not just beneficial for babies, however. Parents also benefit from doing this type of care in the hospital. Parents can increase their bond with their baby as well as increase their confidence in their ability to care for their baby. Additionally, mothers who practice kangaroo care might also have an increased supply of breastmilk.
- Attend an event to raise awareness for kangaroo care, such as walks, seminars and workshops.
- Learn about the benefits kangaroo care provides to premature babies and parents.
- Talk to a new parent about kangaroo care.
- Share your journey using kangaroo care with your infant.
- Fundraise on behalf of parents of premature babies, hospitals and healthcare workers.
- Provide stuffed kangaroo animals to your local NICU.
- Raise awareness for this day on social media using #InternationalKangarooAwarenessDay and #KangarooCareDay.
INTERNATIONAL KANGAROO CARE AWARENESS DAY HISTORY
In 1979, Dr. Edgar Ray and Dr. Hector Martinez began working together to find a way to help the survival rates of premature babies. While working in a large maternity unit in Bogota, Columbia, they started to change how care was provided to low birth weight infants using skin-to-skin contact. At the time, underdeveloped countries had limited resources to increase the survival rate of infants born with low birth weight.
After performing revolutionary experiments on how to improve the overall health of premature infants, Dr. Ray and Dr. Martinez concluded skin-to-skin contact was just as effective as more expensive treatments. Within a few years, over 500 babies thrived, significantly reducing the death rate of infants in Columbia. The movement became known as the Kangaroo Mother Care Program. Kangaroo Mother Care has three main components:
- Early and continuous skin-to-skin contact between the mother and her infant.
- Exclusive breastfeeding.
- Early discharge.
Today, Kangaroo Mother Care is practiced in hospitals around the world. New studies are consistently being done, including the importance of the father of the newborn participating in