Happy International Kangaroo Care Awareness Day!!
For those of you confused right now, I have finally made it to the blog to talk about my work. Most of you know that I'm a Neonatal ICU nurse. I have done this since nursing school graduation, almost 7 years ago. I love this field. It's challenging, heart wrenching, sad at times and joyous at others, and incredibly rewarding. Even more challenging is that the facility where I work is a referral and surgical center too so we see the sickest of the sick and the smallest that you can imagine up and everything else that comes before that too.
In working at my facility and learning neonatal medicine I have grown and expanded and I have a committee that I run (and have now run for three years) to help address issues in one area of neonatal care. I chair my facilities Kangaroo Care Committee and have also become a Certified Kangaroo Care Provider from the World Health Organization's International Network of Kangaroo Care Providers.
Kangaroo Care is a wonderful practice where a parent holds their infant in direct skin-to-skin contact on their chest. The infant wears a diaper and a hat (hat as necessary) and then both are covered in some manner. (A blanket, a wrap, etc)
From everything I've learned about kangaroo care I could speak non-stop for hours about it. It is so wonderful that you can call it a medical treatment that the parents can provide. Kangaroo Care promotes bonding, better thermoregulation in infants (better temperature control), improved brain growth, improved brain development, improved overall growth, increased parent-infant bonding, increased parent confidence, better pain control for both infant and mother (no information available for pain control in fathers), improved breast milk production, improved breast milk content (a richer better quality milk), improved amount of infant sleep, decreased incidence of depression and more benefits being discovered daily. Just to name a few of the simpler ones.
I'm really keeping this very basic. I'm not going into the history of kangaroo care, or the over 400 studies available for it. I'm not going into the high-tech ICU environment versus lower tech and third-work country practices. I could tell you about how the skin makes antibodies and helps the infant receive them. I could tell you why the skin of the chest is so receptive for this care. I could break it down further into how a mother's body works differently from a father's body works differently from another family member's body, etc. Where I work we keep kangaroo care exclusively for mom's and dad's. There's just too much going on to allow it to spread to all, it's the one thing we can offer a parent that can first help them to feel that they are truly being a parent and that the experience is not taken away from them. But in tragic or extenuating circumstances, the benefits are known to apply to all who practice in kangaroo care.
Kangaroo Care is practiced differently depending on age and stability of the infant. Healthy infants out of the hospital, using a wrap and walking around is fine. Preterm infants that are stable, depends on age and ability to feed. Sick infants of any age do best when the Kangaroo Care provider is laying back (we use zero gravity loungers for our parents) as it allows for the infant's heart and lungs to function at their best. All methods of performing Kangaroo Care involve direct skin-to-skin contact.
More importantly Kangaroo Care is important for ALL infants. So much so, that when I became a certified provider I was pregnant and completely changed my plan for how I was going to care for Ann. See:
There is so much out there about Kangaroo Care:
A picture of a preemie in Kangaroo Care here in the United States:
Article from my local paper about a mom in our area
Some reputable Kangaroo Care sites:
United States Institute for Kangaroo Care
Kangaroo Care information from the March of Dimes
A booklet from the World Health Organization:
Kangaroo Mother Care: A Practical Guide
So spread the word, share with others how powerful simple holding skin to skin can be for infants of any age and parents. It's amazing what can be done by the human body!