Kangaroo Care: The Benefits of Skin-to-Skin Contact Between Baby and Parent

mother and baby skin to skin

From the moment children are born, their needs become clear: warmth, comfort and nourishment, to name a few.

Although modern medicine does amazing things to care for babies in need, the obstetrics team at MU Health Care has found great success with a remarkably simple policy for newborn care, put into practice as soon as baby is born.

“Research has shown just how important it is to get all babies in contact with their parents as soon as possible,” says Lori Anderson, MSN, Certified Nurse Midwife (CNM) with MU Health Care. “Women’s and Children’s Hospital makes that a priority and plans for baby to go directly to mom’s skin immediately at birth.”

Lori Anderson
Lori Anderson, MSN, CNM

According to Anderson, this method of skin-to-skin contact, otherwise known as kangaroo care, offers a slew of benefits for babies. With kangaroo care:

  • A newborn’s temperature regulates and stabilizes earlier and easier.
  • Breathing and heart rate are steadier, and the transition from in-utero to breathing is easier and better accepted.
  • Blood sugars regulate faster.
  • It also colonizes the baby with the mother’s skin bacteria, which gives the baby better immunity and protection from allergens.
  • Babies are calmer and happier.
  • Breastfeeding success rates are much higher (latching occurs easier and often without assistance).

“Parents benefit by bonding quickly and forming an early attachment,” Anderson adds. “Dad can also do skin-to-skin with baby and get those benefits. Mom’s milk comes in faster, and she feels calmer and more relaxed right away.”

The power of simplicity

With all of the advanced medical care available today, kangaroo care might seem surprisingly simplistic. So why does it work?

“It works because of the simplicity,” Anderson says. “It is natural and normal.”

In fact, Anderson says the newest research shows that less intervention is more beneficial. “When babies are not medically challenged, we get those newborns skin-to-skin immediately. Even those babies that have challenges are put skin-to-skin as soon as medically possible.”

Even when babies must be delivered by cesarean section, the team at MU Women’s and Children’s strives to keep baby and mom together if at all possible. If the baby is stable, the average is less than 10 minutes from the baby’s birth to having skin-to-skin contact with mom or dad.

“The reason for the C-section affects the newborn’s medical status,” Anderson says. “We typically take the baby to a room connected to the OR where he/she is dried off and evaluated. If the baby is doing well, staff will bring the baby back into the OR and place the baby skin-to-skin while the mom is still having surgery. … If the mom is not feeling well or has had sedation, the father of the baby can be skin-to-skin during that time.”

Trust your instincts

It isn’t uncommon for parents — especially first-time parents — to feel uneasy about their ability to care for a newborn, but Anderson stresses that they already have what they need to succeed.

“Relax, focus on your feelings and trust yourself,” she says. “I think [kangaroo care] tells us that we need very little when it comes to giving our children what they need.”

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