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12:14 PM

What Are The Benefits Of Parents Holding Their Baby Skin-To-Skin?

Cook Children's NICU Explain Kangaroo Care

Dwyane Wade and Gabrielle Union recently spoke about their difficult journey to becoming parents of their daughter, Kaavia James Union Wade.

In an interview with Oprah Winfrey, the couple revealed they had nine miscarriages before choosing surrogacy.

After the long-awaited arrival of their newborn, the couple shared photos of them holding their baby on social media. The photos were taken in the hospital room and showed Union in a hospital gown and mom and dad holding their baby skin-to-skin.

Once the photos were published, the couple began to receive backlash on social media.

“For me, the most hurtful thing was once we had our baby and everyone started talking about, ‘Why is she in the bed holding the baby? Why she got a gown on? Why she acting like she just had a baby?’” Wade said in the interview.

“Once again people are uneducated on the process and we decided to go skin-to-skin as soon as our baby came out.”

The Neonatal Intensive Care Unit staff at Cook Children’s strongly encourages skin-to-skin care, also known as kangaroo care, because of the strong benefits for parents and their baby.

Benefits for the baby:

  • Keep baby’s body warm-more stable temperature.
  • Keep baby’s heart and breathing regular.
  • Better weight gain for baby.
  • Baby spends more time in deep sleep which supports brain development.
  • Baby spends more time being quiet when awake and less time crying.
  • Baby has a better chance of being able to breastfeed.

Benefits for the parents:

  • Mom makes more breast milk.
  • Reduces parents stress.
  • Feel closer to baby and learn their likes and dislikes.
  • Builds parents confidence as baby’s mother or father becoming more in-tune to baby’s needs; bonding.

“As a therapist in the NICU, the most rewarding part of my work is re-uniting babies and parents through kangaroo care,” said Betsy O’Hara, an occupational therapist in Cook Children’s NICU. “It is so important that these babies and parents begin to form a strong bond that will support their relationships for a lifetime. A transformation happens as the baby responds to his/her parent and the parent finally ‘feels’ like the baby’s mom or dad. It’s magical!”

In the NICU environment at Cook Children’s, therapists emphasize that kangaroo care or “encircled holding” (wrapping your arms around your sick or premature baby even if he/she cannot be held) helps parents feel like a parent to their baby by offering this special care that only parents can provide.

Studies show kangaroo care helps babies who were born prematurely not only to support development while in the NICU, but also cognitive development especially related to behavior and self-control across the first 10 years of life.

Kangaroo Care has also been found to foster stronger maternal attachment in the post-partum period. Receiving Kangaroo care as a premature infant supports better sleep patterns and stress responses in the growing and developing child

Before kangaroo care, the conventional neonatal care model had the infant removed from the mother and let the nurses assume all care of the baby. Kangaroo care represents a shift in neonatal care to a family-centered care model that incorporates both parents into the care of their infant.

“Unlike breastfeeding, which is also so important to the care of the baby, kangaroo care allows for both mothers and fathers to be involved, “O’Hara said. “This care provided by the parents has lifelong benefits for both the baby and the parents. Mom or dad’s chest is the best place for the baby to grow while in the NICU setting and can continue once the family goes home.”

Learn More About Kangaroo Care

Babies in the NICU seem so fragile and delicate, parents are sometimes afraid to pick them up or hold them. But whenever possible, holding your tiny premature or critically ill baby is good for both you and your baby. One of the easiest ways to do this is through kangaroo care, the simple method of holding your baby against your bare chest for skin-to-skin contact.

According to recent medical research there are many benefits that "skin-to-skin" contact provides for moms, dads and babies. Kangaroo care lets you experience a natural closeness that helps you bond with your baby. It can also help to soothe your baby, and for moms, it's a good way to increase breast milk supply. Click here to learn more.


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