Sunday, October 3, 2010

Kangaroo Care

I am getting a lot of questions about Kangaroo Care. Kangaroo Care has been around forever. The biggest studies were done in the mid- twentieth century on the heels of professors of mine at the University of Wisconsin: Margaret and her famous husband Harry Harlow examined the importance of bonding and touch using those weird wire- mother surrogate monkeys. Does anyone out there remember that from Psych 101? If not, psychology has taken a wrong turn.

The idea is simple and should be obvious; but it wasn't always. Babies need touch to thrive and even survive. There is good data about Kangaroo Care and preemies, in particular, and what's good for preemies has got to be good for all babies. The idea is to keep your baby close to you. For moms and dads and substitutes ( nurses, grandmas, whomever ). Skin to skin contact and the kangaroo part is simply to cocoon the baby with your gown or shirt or even a blanket. Undress baby down to it's skivies ( diaper and head covering ) and place abdomen and chest to abdomen and chest with the bonder of choice, with the adult's shirt or gown surrounding the infant for comfort, warmth and security, like a kangaroo's pouch.

You really can't do it too much, however studies show that you really don't have to do it that mu either for quite an effect. Babies need touch and the mammals and marsupial, in particular, can teach us a thing or two about how to nurture our young. It's why I always stress the importance of that initial bonding period right after babies are born. The couple of hours that you are allowed in the labor and delivery room suite are time for the three of you to cuddle initially. Before friends and family barge in and take over. Save that for when you are moved to the postpartum room.

Dads: take off your shirts and get into bed with your peeps. Undress the baby ( cap and diaper stay on ) and do a group hug. Babies are very, VERY engaging right after birth to convince you to keep them. Make the most of this very awake time in your baby's new life to let him know that YOU are the right parents for him. Talk and sing, tickle and talk. Nurture your baby and envelop him in your personal pouch. Just like a kangaroo.