Kangaroo Care

Happy New Year!

I learned something new—who said you can’t teach an old princess a new trick?

With my DIL just a few short weeks from meeting my adorable grandson, it’s time to brush up on newborn education.

Skin-to-skin touch or Kangaroo Care is believed to have many benefits such as regulating your infant’s heart rate (he can hear your familiar heartbeat, too) and body temperature.

It’s also very soothing to the little one and he’ll feel much less stress about the environment change if he’s in close contact with mom (or dad).

It’s been a long nine months so it’s not a hardship to actually snuggle skin-to-skin after all that time.

A newborn feels an important sense of comfort when surrounded by your familiar smell. 

Experts now believe that the amniotic fluid carries smells through the oral and nasal cavities, and studies show that babies have an easier time adjusting to the changes of environment when they can still identify with the amniotic fluid in the moments directly after birth.

Evidence shows that babies are drawn to the scent of their mother’s breast milk even though they have never been exposed before. It’s just another miracle we see as we meet our new arrival.

In the first hour after birth (and beyond), baby is sensitive to volume and he’ll feel the need to hear you speak softly, not only for a sense of comfort but out of a need to have a break from the rush of stimulation he’s feeling right now. 

To calm the heart rate, hold him close and softly sing. He’s been listening to your voice while in the womb, and if you continue to bless him with soothing sounds, he’ll  benefit from brain development and a relaxed demeanor.

Your newborn’s skin is ultra sensitive, so the soft touch and caresses that you give to him are helping the brain to mature and seek out new sensations, as well as releasing growth hormones.

Even more importantly, gentle massage of your newborn reduces the stress hormone cortisol.

More info from http://www.midwiferytoday.com/articles/kangaroocare.asp

Dr. Susan Ludington is one of the people who have been most instrumental in bringing kangaroo care to the United States. She has been intimately involved in many research projects, and her work is having a powerful, positive impact on premature babies and their families. In the United States, the few hospitals that regularly use kangaroo care protocols have mothers or fathers “wear” their babies for two to three hours per day, skin-to-skin. The baby is naked except for a diaper, and something must cover his or her back—either the parent’s clothing or a receiving blanket folded in fourths. The baby is in a mostly upright position against the parent’s chest.

Why does kangaroo care work? Why are Dr. Ludington and others seeing such phenomenal results with babies in kangaroo care? What is happening to the baby and the mother during this time?

One of the first things to happen is that maintenance of the baby’s body temperature begins to depend on the mother, requiring the baby to use fewer calories to stay warm. Mothers naturally modulate the warmth of their breasts to keep their infants at the optimal temperature where babies sleep best, have the best oxygen saturation levels, the least caloric expenditure, and so forth. Maternal breast temperature can rise rapidly, then fall off as baby is warmed. As the baby starts to cool, the breasts heat up again—as much as 2 degrees C in two minutes!

Being next to morn also helps the baby regulate his or her respiratory and heart rates. Babies experience significantly less bradycardia and often, none at all. The respiratory rate of kangarooed infants becomes more stable. The depth of each breath becomes more even, and apnea decreases four-fold and often disappears altogether. If apneic episodes do occur, the length of each episode decreases.

According to Dr. Ludington, during the last six weeks of pregnancy, babies sleep twenty to twenty-two hours per day. In a typical NICU, however, they spend less than two hours total in deep, quiet sleep. Most of that comes in ten or twenty second snatches. With kangaroo care, the infant typically snuggles into the breast and is deeply asleep within just a few minutes. These babies gain weight faster than their non-kangarooed counterparts, and it is interesting to note that they usually do not lose any of their birthweight.

As researchers studied brain wave patterns of infants in kangaroo care, they found two significant things. First, there was a doubling of alpha waves—the brain wave pattern associated with contentment and bliss. Second, they found that “delta brushes” were occurring. Delta brushes happen only when new synapses are being formed. So holding the infant skin-to-skin allows his or her brain to continue its work of developing neural synapses.

Dr. Ludington sums up kangaroo care very aptly by saying “Separation is not biologically normal.”

So, the moral of the story is that I knew it all along…gentle skin-to-skin touch is all-important to a newborn’s physical, mental, and emotional growth–and will help the transition from the womb to the world.

 

Photo credit: http://mrychristmas.blogspot.com/2015/07/christmas-kangaroo-clipart.html

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