Kangaroo Care – positive health benefits for sick babies
We all know that the natural instinct when you give birth to a baby is to hold and cuddle them to welcome them to the world. For sick children and our little patients in CHI at Crumlin, sometimes it is not possible due to a life-threatening health condition or vital life-saving equipment connected to the baby. An innovative care approach called Kangaroo Care – or skin to skin contact – was developed in Bogota, Columbia in the late 1970s, which has been proven to have positive health effects for sick babies. Kangaroo Care is a vital care method used in the care and treatment of sick babies in CHI at Crumlin.
Neonatal Clinical Nurse Specialist in CHI at Crumlin Karen Prunty says, ‘Kangaroo Care is a method of positioning a baby onto their parent’s chest, helping babies connect to their mothers and fathers through direct skin to skin contact. We position the baby onto mum or dad’s chest and wrap a blanket over baby’s back for warmth. This appears similar to a kangaroo carrying a baby in their pouch, this is where the name came from.
Kangaroo Care helps enable parents and baby to bond, however, there may be some barriers such as a ventilator, an incubator, a cot, or tubes connected to machines. Some babies may be recovering from surgery and it's not easy for parents to pick up their baby to hold them. In CHI at Crumlin, we promote modified forms of Kangaroo Care by using finger holding, hand-hugging (parent places one hand cupping the feet and one hand cupping the head), or a foot hold.
Having a baby in CHI Crumlin can be a very stressful time and Kangaroo Care can help alleviate some stress, help bonding for parents and increase their confidence in caring for their baby. It can really help Mums who are breastfeeding or expressing milk as it helps to release hormones in the body to build up the supply of breastmilk. We encourage parents to hold their baby and be around their baby as this can all help breastmilk supply, post-partum depression and bonding with their child.”
“It goes against your natural maternal instinct when you don't have your baby with you as he's in an incubator. So it really helps if you can cuddle them when you visit. When Niall was really small I could almost define my days as "good" or "bad" depending on whether I got to give Kangaroo Care or not! The days when I wasn't able to hold Niall due to infections or sick days, made the days when I got cuddles all the more special. The cuddle times were sometimes short - less than an hour - so he could rest, but they were lovely! Niall would sleep in my arms. His heart rate and breathing would settle down.” - Anne-Marie Dillon, Niall’s Mammy
“It's also a really good aspect of bonding with parents. Sometimes when parents have babies who are sick in hospital they don't feel as in control of the care of their baby and they don't feel as empowered. They are also really scared and frightened to touch their baby in case they pull a tube or do something that will make their baby sick. It's really important that we have the connection between Mum, Dad and baby, and get them out onto their parent's chest whenever the baby is ready. We would normally ask the Mum or Dad to open their top and have the baby in their nappy, and then we would wrap them in a blanket where they are nice and warm.
Kangaroo Care provides warmth and comfort to babies which helps regulate their temperature, heartbeat and breathing. Babies find it really soothing and recover from painful procedures quicker. It also helps improve neuro-behavioural responses, improves sleep, weight gain, and bonding. We promote family-centred care and Kangaroo Care is a very important aspect of that. This is really important for infant mental health and development – ensuring we do our best for the first 1,001 days of a child's life.”
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