The first few moments after birth is truly magical. How and where an infant spends the first few hours of his life can impact him short as well as long-term. Research shows that the best place for a newborn immediately after birth and for prolonged periods of time is in chest-to-chest contact with the mother. Skin to skin and kangaroo are terms often used interchangeably.
What is Kangaroo Mother Care?
Kangaroo Mother Care (KMC) for new moms and babies, is a universally available and biologically sound method of skin-to-skin care for all newborns, but in particular, for premature babies, involving three main components:
• Skin-to-skin contact
• Exclusive breastfeeding
• Support to the mother-infant unit
Skin-to-skin contact is the baby’s front and the mother’s chest. The more skin-to-skin contact, the better continuous day and night is best, but shorter periods are still helpful. The practice should ideally start at birth.
Exclusive breastfeeding means that for an average mother, expressing from the breasts or direct suckling by the baby is all that is needed. For very premature babies, a supply of some essential nutrients may be required.
Support to the mother-infant unit means that whatever is needed for the medical, emotional, psychological, and physical well-being of mother and baby is provided to them, without separating them.
The research of Dr. Nils Bergman, a perinatal neuroscience specialist from South Africa, has shown that this skin-to-skin contact between mother and baby is where the brain, DNA, and social and emotional intelligence get the best start.
Benefits of Kangaroo Mother Care or skin-to-skin care for the infant include:
- Temperature regulation
- Stabilized breathing pattern and oxygen intake
- Increases breastfeeding success
- Stabilized glucose levels
- Stress reduction
- Increased brain development/social and emotional intelligence
Skin-to-skin contact is symbiotic; it benefits both baby and mother. Research has shown that benefits include:
- Increased milk production and breastfeeding success
- Faster delivery of the placenta
- Increased bonding
- Reduced risk of postpartum depression
- Reduced stress levels
- Better sleep cycle for mother and baby
One way to ensure that your newborn is afforded the best start with immediate skin-to-skin contact is to discuss it with your doctor and write a birth plan that includes after-birth care guidelines.