Kangaroo care’ - which involves skin-to-skin contact between parent and newborn in the first few hours after birth - has begun to grow in popularity over the past few years. The reason for its growing popularity? It has been shown to offer a wide variety of emotional and developmental benefits to both parent and child.
In this week’s article, we explore some of the established benefits of kangaroo care. Take a look.
How Does it Work?
Kangaroo care is incredibly straight-forward. Quite simply, it involves holding your newborn or young baby against your bare skin - most commonly, against the chest. Experts suggest that the most important time to do this is within the first two hours after birth. Beyond this, however, experts believe there may be further benefits for babies that continue to receive kangaroo care for the first few weeks after birth.
While kangaroo care appears to be beneficial for all newborns, and is recommended by most healthcare professionals, it can be particular beneficial to premature babies.
- Encourages Healthy Brain Development
According to studies done into the long-term effects of skin-to-skin contact for newborns, children who received this kind of care were shown to have healthier brain function later in life.
- Helps Reduce Stress in your Baby
Babies who receive skin-to-skin contact as newborns have been shown to experience less stress than those who do not. This is because skin-to-skin contact is believed to release the hormone ‘oxytocin’, which promotes feelings of calm and security, and reduces levels of ‘cortisol’, the hormone associated with stress.
- Helps Baby Adapt to New Environment
Newborns - particularly preterm babies - can often find it difficult adjusting to the new temperature outside the womb. Because your skin is a similar temperature to the womb, skin-to-skin contact can help newborns adapt to the new temperatures after you give birth.
- Facilitates Breastfeeding
Newborns have a particularly acute sense of smell. By holding your newborn against your skin, you will allow your newborn to find your nipple easier and begin breastfeeding naturally.
- Shown to Reduce Postpartum Depression
As noted above, skin-to-skin contact release the hormone oxytocin. This is released not only in the baby, however, but in the mother too. Because of this, skin to skin contact helps reduce the chances of postpartum depression and helps encourage a feeling of calm and comfort in both mother and baby.
- Encourages Better Sleep
Because skin-to-skin contact reduce stress levels, and promotes feelings of calmness, comfort and security, it also helps newborns get longer and more restful sleep.
- Encourages Healthy Weight
According to some research, skin-to-skin contact helps promote weight gain in newborns. Because newborn babies will remain warm through skin-to-skin contact, they don’t need to expend energy regulating their body temperature. As a result, they tend to tend to put on weight easier and quicker.
- Promotes Meaningful Bonding
This is probably one of the most obvious benefits, but it certainly shouldn’t be overlooked. Skin-to-skin contact between newborns and mothers will further strengthen the inevitable bond between mother and child, but it can also help strengthen the bond between father and baby too. Many parents take turns providing their baby with skin-to-skin contact in the first few hours after birth.