Kangaroo Care

Hello everyone! Sorry its been a while since I’ve posted…but Jenn and I have been a little busy with our new little one! As a surprise to both of us, our new little boy, Alexander Clayton Stoner, decided he didn’t want to wait inside of mommy any more and decided he was going to come a month early.  Luckily, both he and mommy are doing great after a quick emergency c section Monday, October 1, 2018. While we were in the hospital we were told of all of the benefits of skin to skin kangaroo care, so I wanted to share with all of you the importance of this practice with pre-term babies.

Kangaroo care was first developed in the 1970’s to care for preterm infants in countries where incubators were either unavailable.  It is also called “skin to skin” care since the technique is about placing a new born in diapers only on the bare chest of the mother or father.  The technique has been shown to decrease infant mortality, reduce the rate of hospital acquired infection, stabilize heart rate and breathing rate, and help the baby bond with the parents.

The technique gained popularity after mass use of the technique in Bogota, Columbia.  In 1978 and into the early 1980’s, the infant mortality rate in Bogota was around 70% with babies dying because of infection and respiratory problems.  Mothers were given their babies to hold for 24 hours a day against their bare chest with a blanket covering or clothing covering the infant against the mother’s chest.  This has lead to a significant reduction in mortality as well as discharge with healthy babies after 24 hours!

Dr. Susan Ludington has been the one credited for pioneering the kangroo care movement to the United States. Thanks to her efforts, most hospital immediately recommend at least three hours a day of skin to skin kangaroo care for all pre-term babies.

The benefits of kangaroo care are numerous and include:

Stable Heart Rate More Regular Breathing (75% decrease in apneic episodes) Improve oxygen levels
No cold stress Longer periods of sleep More rapid weight gain
More rapid brain development Reduction of “purposeless” activity Decreased crying
Longer periods of alertness More successful breastfeeding Earlier bonding


So what does the research actually say?

A recently updated Cochrane review explored the effectiveness of kangaroo care as an alternative to conventional NICU care of low-birthweight infants. Based on 16 studies (2518 infants), 11 of which were conducted in low- or middle-income countries, the review concluded that kangaroo care reduced not only mortality at discharge, but also severe illness, infections and length of hospital stay, as well as improving mother-infant bonding, breastfeeding and maternal satisfaction. Kangaroo care is now considered by many to be an important intervention to decrease morbidity and mortality for low-birthweight infants in developing countries (Charpak N, Ruiz JG, Zupan J, et al. Kangaroo mother care: 25 years after. Acta Paediatr. 2005;94(5):514–22.)

Two cohort studies have shown that preterm infants ranging in gestational age from 25 to 35 weeks who received KC during their hospital stay had improved neurodevelopmental outcome, scoring higher on the Mental Development Index and Psychomotor Development Index of the Bayley Scales of Infant Development both at six months and at 12 months when compared with infants who received conventional care. (Feldman R, Eidelman AI, Sirota L, Weller A. Comparison of skin-to-skin (kangaroo) and traditional care: Parenting outcomes and preterm infant development. Pediatrics. 2002;110(1 Pt 1):16–26.)

At 20 years of age after administering kangaroo care, several benefits were continued to be noticed. The young participants, especially in the poorest families, had less aggressive drive and were less impulsive and hyperactive, a smaller decrease in math abilities compared to other low weight, pre-term babies and slightly less severe abnormal neurologic results.  Kangaroo care mothers take their children to preschool earlier and provide support, as reflected in a lower rate of school dropout. Fathers’ participation has long been recognized as highly positive in infants’ social and cognitive growth. (Charpak N, et al. Twenty-year Follow-up  of Kangaroo mother care versus Traditional Care. Pediatrics. V139 n1, Jan 2017, e 20162063.)

So, as you can read, the benefits of Kangaroo Care are AMAZING and LONG LASTING showing improvements in behavior and socialization for the children and more supportive parents even 20 years after care! So for all you soon to be mommies and daddies, please remember, KANGAROO CARE when taking care of your new little one!


-Travis H. Stoner, PT, DPT, COMT, Fellow in Training in Orthopedic Manual Therapy

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