Updated April 2014, next review April 2017

Your premature baby's time in hospital

Kangaroo care

Skin-to-skin contact with your premature baby is a wonderful way for you both to bond. It also provides health benefits.

What is kangaroo care?

Kangaroo care is a method of caring for stabilised low-weight or premature babies outside an incubator. As the name suggests, it involves strapping your baby to your chest, with skin-to-skin contact between the baby and parent helping to maintain a healthy body temperature.

Benefits of kangaroo care

Parents who use this method often say they find it a very satisfying way to nurture and bond with their baby. Many also report that their babies seem to love this method of care – perhaps because it reminds them of life inside the womb. It also has health benefits. Kangaroo care compared to traditional care has been found to reduce the instances of infection, hypothermia, severe illness, lower respiratory tract disease and reduce the length of hospital stay. Kangaroo care helped parents bond with their babies and helped the babies have improved interactions with parents.

When kangaroo care might not be suitable

Kangaroo care is not suitable for babies who are still very premature, or whose health is unstable. For others it might only be advisable for short periods, or once every few days.

It also depends which hospital you're in. Some baby units may be unwilling to offer kangaroo care if they are not familiar with this way of working or do not have the resources to carry it out safely.

Timing is important. Units whose staff have experience of kangaroo care are often happy for parents to practise it from around 28–30 weeks.

How to do it: kangaroo care

  • Wear a front-opening top.
  • Always wash your hands before picking up your baby.
  • Dress your baby in just a nappy and maybe a hat if the nurse advises it.
  • Place the baby on your chest – for women, between the breasts.
  • Wrap your top around her to keep her warm.
  • Lean back, relax and enjoy the closeness with your baby.

Kangaroo care is often possible even for a baby who is attached to tubes and wires, but you will need to stay near the machines and try not to move around too much.

Find out about other ways to bond with your baby.

Premature baby enjoying kangaroo care.


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Sources

Conde-Agudelo A, Belizán JM, Diaz-Rossello J (2011) Kangaroo mother care to reduce morbidity and mortality in low birthweight infants, Cochrane Review, Cochrane Neonatal Group, Cochrane Library, Wiley Online Library

Feldman R, Eidelman AI, Sirota L, Weller A (2002) Comparison of skin-to-skin and traditional care: parenting outcomes and preterm infant development, Pediatrics, Vol 110, No 1, p16–26

Fohe K, Dropf S, Avenarius S (2000) Skin-to-skin contact improves gas exchange in premature infant, Journal of Perinatalogy, Vol 23, p311–15

Rennie JM (2005) Roberton's Textbook of Neonatology, England, Churchill Livingstone, p389

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On this page

What is kangaroo care?

Benefits of kangaroo care

When kangaroo care might not be suitable

Kangaroo care: how to do it



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Feedback on health information

'There were a couple of nurses who were very hot on kangaroo care in our unit, so I held him and did kangaroo care on the first day, which was very good. It definitely helped with bonding.'

AMINA

DID YOU KNOW?

Skin-to-skin contact between mothers and babies has been carried out by many societies for centuries, but the term 'kangaroo care' was coined in Colombia in the 1970s when it became formally practised in baby units, partly to address the lack of incubators.