Kangaroo care means holding your baby, skin-to-skin. You become your new baby’s incubator, with no clothing separating you. Kangaroo care involves having your newborn sleep on your chest (or sleep on your partner’s or friend’s chest when you need a break.) Like a mama kangaroo with her joey, you carry her with you everywhere. You stay connected, heartbeat to heartbeat.
All new babies, especially preemies, thrive from skin-to-skin contact.
And, according to The Independent, there are now at least 1,600 scientific studies that show that this kind of skin-to-skin human touch newborn care has tremendous health benefits to babies. The main benefit is a reduction in infant mortality. This reduction has been seen in every birth facility where kanga care has become routine.
Beside reducing infant mortality, other benefits to kangaroo care include:
- better sleep
- decreased crying
- more periods of alertness
- more rapid brain development
- regularized breathing
- regularized heartbeat
- better weight gain
- improved ability to breastfeed
- earlier hospital discharge
A science-forward approach to the first days of life, as this article in Midwifery Today explores, shows that human babies should not be put in incubators or bassinets.
Don’t let anyone take away your newborn
If your baby is born in the hospital, even the pediatric exam can be done while she is with you, on your chest. No one should whisk your baby away from you. Even if kangaroo care is “against hospital policy,” insist on it. Your baby needs to be with you. Separating you from your baby is bad for you and bad for your baby.
Unfortunately, with concerns over coronavirus, moms are being separated from their newborns more than ever before.
That’s what happened to LaToya Jordan after she gave birth to a healthy baby girl.
“They separated me from my baby. I never saw her further than my knee,” Jordan told The Cut. “Not touching or seeing my child’s face, no skin-to-skin—I cried a lot about that.”
The article continues:
She said she wasn’t allowed to take a video of her daughter being bathed at a distance, or even glimpse her in the nursery through a window. Jordan was handed a breast pump and put in a room with another woman in the same boat, who she remembers sobbed when she asked if she could see her baby.
“I get that everyone is overwhelmed, but I didn’t feel like a patient. I felt like I was a damn near criminal,” said Jordan, who has her own organizational and leadership consulting practice. “It felt so inhumane.”
Jordan was desperate to get out of the ward, where she said nurses were afraid to come help the two recovering women, even though her roommate struggled to even use the bathroom.
On Monday evening, more than 12 hours after her daughter was born, Jordan was told she had tested positive for COVID-19.
On Tuesday, she agreed to be discharged without her baby, who was being treated for jaundice. The next day, her daughter tested negative for the coronavirus and Jordan was allowed to hold her for the first time and bring her home. She was instructed to wear a mask and wash her hands, raising the question of why she had to be separated from her at birth in the first place.”
How do you make sure you can hold your baby close?
The best way is to have a home birth or a birth center birth. Hospitals are for helping sick people, something they do well. When you’re a healthy pregnant person there is no reason to go to the hospital.
But if you are having a hospital birth, find a baby-friendly hospital that practices kangaroo care. Make sure you have a midwife, not an obstetrician, take care of you during labor and delivery. And make sure your midwife, and any of the loved ones who are attending your birth, all understand that your baby will not be leaving your arms.
The bottom line is that there should be zero separation of moms and babies. Kangaroo care leads to healthier, happier babies. Kangaroo carried babies are better able to nurse, gain weight, be alert, survive, and thrive.
Published: February 7, 2020
Last update: July 22, 2020