Physicians across the US, South America, and even Africa are now recommending skin-to-skin therapy for both pre-term and full-term infants. This is what is commonly known as kangaroo care.
This is mainly because research shows that skin-to-skin contact is not only safe but also comes with a host of benefits. Here are some solid reasons why you as a medical practitioner should encourage the same.
It Facilitates Adaptability Outside the Womb
Most new mothers or parents for that matter do not know that most infants have a problem when it comes to thermal regulation. This is particularly true for pre-term babies.
You see, when babies are in their mother’s wombs, they do not need to regulate their temperature. Once they are outside, they may experience problems doing that.
The thing is that the mother’s or father’s skin has the same temperature as the womb so establishing that contact with the baby helps them adapt better to the new environment outside the womb.
Increased Mental Development
Pre-term babies who receive kangaroo care are thought to have better brain functioning when they get to their teenage years compared to those born full-term or pre-term and placed in incubators according to a Canadian study.
The practice is thought to improve sleep, oxygenation, and regulate heart rate which in turn leads to better brain development.
Healthy Weight Promotion
According to one study by Cochrane Library, kangaroo care helps in rapidly increasing newborn weight and this is something that most parents will appreciate.
The thing is that when babies have all the warmth they need, there is no need for them to use their energy to stabilize their temperatures.
That saved energy is instead used to grow. Besides, babies who get skin-to-skin contact breastfeed better which ultimately leads to weight gain.
Did you know that newborns come with a high sense of smell? It is no wonder then that they tend to recognize those around them simply by being held.
Anyway, skin-to-skin placement helps babies seek out their mother’s nipple so that they can start breastfeeding.
Mothers who practice kangaroo care are in a better position to do exclusive breastfeeding. Research shows that such mothers breastfeed longer than those who did not establish skin-to-skin with their newborns.
Promotes Better Respiration and Healthier Heart Rate
Research reveals that infants suffering from respiratory issues and received kangaroo care were able to experience significant relief within 48 hours without using respirators.
This leads to the conclusion that the heart rates for infants who receive kangaroo care are more stabilized than those for babies who do not get it at all.
It is common for preterm babies to have compromised or poor immunity systems. This puts them at risk of feeding issues, infections, and allergies.
Early skin-to-skin therapy helps to dramatically diminish such issues since it boosts their immunity.
Increased Milk Supply
Since kangaroo care is one of the ways that mother and child can be closest, it does help in the generation of hormones that support a healthy supply of milk.
This ensures that there is enough milk for the baby to feed on and that opens up other benefits like increased immunity and weight gain for the baby.
Reduced Pain and Fetal Stress
Even a few minutes of Kangaroo care can considerably reduce the levels of the cortisol hormone in babies that is responsible for inducing stress.
You see, when there is skin-to-skin contact, the oxytocin hormone is released and it works to make babies feel safe and calm.
One study reveals that pre-term babies react less to heel sticks which is a painful way of drawing blood from preemies.
Helps in Preventing Postpartum Depression
Postpartum depression is common among mothers, but it can be reduced or even prevented using kangaroo care.
Childbirth negatively affects a woman’s adrenal axis and skin-to-skin contact is one of the best ways to reduce the chances of her developing depression.
Moreover, the oxytocin hormone released during kangaroo care helps in decreasing maternal anxiety while promoting attachment.
Childbirth is one of the greatest gifts but it can also be a source of pain and anxiety.
As a physician, you are tasked with the responsibility of ensuring that new mothers leave the hospital in the best possible physical and mental state.
Encouraging kangaroo care is one of the things that can help achieve that.
I am a dedicated healthcare researcher and an enthusiast specializing in medical grants, medical education and research. Through my articles, I aim to empower healthcare professionals and researchers with valuable insights and resources to navigate these critical aspects effectively.