Kangaroo Maternal Care is a technique that was first practiced in Bogota, Colombia in 1983. It was a way to combat a lack of resources to tend to premature babies in local hospitals. It involves placing the diaper-covered baby on the mother’s bare chest to encourage skin-to-skin contact. Usually, doctors turn the baby’s head so that the preemie’s ears are just above the mother’s heart. This is very important to stabilize the baby’s vital signs. Kangaroo Mother Care has helped reduce infant mortality rates from 70% to a staggering 30%.
Preemie babies should be incubated soon after birth as their bodies lack the ability to store heat as their immune systems are compromised. However, as a result of this sudden separation from his mother, the baby feels stressed in an unfamiliar environment and the body begins to produce cortisol in order to cope with this loss. While cortisol does allow the baby to fight anxiety with some success, it inhibits much-needed growth at this stage.
A newborn baby recognizes its mother’s scent and touch as soon as it is born. As Kangaroo Mother Care increases skin-to-skin contact, the baby is relieved by the presence of his mother. This familiarity accelerates the production of growth hormones so much that preemie babies show the same progress as babies born after full-term, about two months later.
Applying Kangaroo Mother Care also keeps the baby warm. It is believed that the mother’s body changes heat levels in response to her child’s needs. Also, because of its proximity to the breasts, breastfeeding is encouraged as the baby can easily feed its mother. Some chemical reactions in the mother’s body also stimulate milk production when the Kangaroo Mother Care technique is applied.
But contrary to popular belief that Kangaroo Mother Care is only beneficial for premature babies, it has many benefits for “normal” children as well. First, the immune system is strengthened as the bond is strengthened. It also encourages bonding between caregivers and children, because constant physical contact gives the baby a sense of security.
Kangaroo Maternal Care can be routinely established during the baby’s first months and should be adopted by fathers to enhance their relationship with their children. It is best to give the baby maximum time; Some doctors even recommend using this technique all day long in premature babies. However, this is not necessary, as even a few hours a day gives positive results.