It’s Kangaroo Care Awareness Day, which makes today a perfect day to celebrate all the benefits of early skin-to-skin contact (SSC)!
Benefits of skin to skin on healthy term babies as listed by Nancy Mohrbacher, IBCLC, in her book Breastfeeding Made Simple: Seven Natural Laws for Nursing Mothers include:
- More success with latching on to breastfeed;
- Greater likelihood of baby breastfeeding well;
- Up to 10 times less crying;
- Better regulated temperature and blood sugars;
- Longer duration of breastfeeding relationship.
Studies in recent years have shown benefits to mothers as well, including reduced postpartum depression and increase in positive feelings! Other benefits to mom may include increased milk production when pumping for preemies! (Mohrbacher)
Not only do healthy term babies and new mothers reap benefits from SSC, but the benefits to babies born early are astounding!
“Late preterm” and premature babies show significantly better cardio-respiratory stability as well as better blood glucose levels after SSC (Cochrane Collaboration), and premature babies who’ve received early and regular SSC have these benefits AND better oxygen levels, better body temperatures, less reaction to painful procedures, reduced stress hormones, earlier release from the hospital, and greater likelihood of full breastfeeding at hospital discharge. (Mohrbacher)
Even in the absence of technological medical intervention, early SSC can have amazing impacts on premature babies! Stories exist of babies being handed to their mothers to have closure after being born without vital signs, only to have the mothers skin-to-skin contact revive the babies!
Dr. Nils Bergman did research in hospitals in rural Zimbabwe, where incubators and other medical technology used in the West to save premature babies were not available. By wrapping low birth weight and premature babies close to their mothers for 24 hours a day, he saw dramatic results! Babies smaller than 1500 grams (3 pounds 5 ounces) had survival rates increase from 10% to 50%, and babies with birthweights between 1500 and 1999 grams (3 pounds 5 ounces to 4 pounds 6 ounces) saw survival rates increase from 70% to 90%. These are mind-boggling results, and motivation enough to want to make sure EVERY premature baby receives early and regular SSC, no matter where they are born!
Carrie’s sweet twins hold hands while reaping all the health benefits of SSC!
No matter where your babies are born, whether it is in the highest of high-tech teaching hospitals, at home with a hospital close by, or somewhere that high-tech medical care is not accessible, early and regular skin-to-skin contact will improve their health! No matter what gestational age or birthweight, skin-to-skin has benefits for them and for you! With so many benefits, kangaroo care is the right way to go. If your hospital, birth center, or NICU isn’t making this possible and easy, be firm and prepared, with research and studies, and make sure you get the best start possible for your babies!