Also called ‘skin to skin’, Kangaroo Care was first seen in Bogota, Columbia in 1978, proposed by Dr Edgar Rey & Dr Hector Martinez. They found themselves in a situation where there were not enough incubators, so premature babies were strapped to their mothers.
The mortality rate for these premature infants reduced from 70% to 30%. Research studies have since reported benefits of Kangaroo Care in all types of care setting.
Kangaroo Care in the UK
Midwives at MTW NHS Trust performed the first UK study to investigate Kangaroo Care for premature and small babies cared for in a ‘transitional care’ environment on the postnatal ward. Their research found that premature or small babies that had Kangaroo Care required a shorter hospital stay and were more likely to be exclusively breastfed than babies who were cared for in a cot next to their mother. They also found that parents who performed Kangaroo care had higher levels of satisfaction and confidence in handling their baby.
The midwives performed further research to help mums having a caesarean birth. They designed a ‘KangaWrap Kardi’ to help mums have Kangaroo care (skin to skin contact) immediately after the baby is born in the operating theatre. The Kardi helps provide some extra warmth and a sense of security.
The study showed that Kangaroo Care can be performed safely in the operating theatre and it helped Mums breastfeed more successfully after a caesarean birth.
Benefits of Kangaroo care:
- More successful breastfeeding; Research has shown that kangaroo care helps women and babies (especially premature babies) to breastfeed more consistently and for a longer period of time.
- Better weight gain; Babies having Kangaroo care are calmer and less stressed. They are therefore able to put all their energy into growing and developing and consequently weight gain is much faster.
- Shorter hospital stay; The health of premature and small babies having Kangaroo care helps them to conserve their energy and build up their reserves which in turn means they are well enough to go home much faster.
- Better temperature control; Research by Mori et al 2010, advocates the effectiveness of Kangaroo Care at stabilising body temperature, which again helps with conserving energy.
- Breathing, heart rate, blood sugar regulation; Skin-to-skin contact helps the baby’s vital signs to stabilise more quickly.
- Brain development; Reduced stress hormones and stabilised vital signs mean that neuropathways are better developed.
- Successful bonding; Skin to skin between mother and baby has been shown to activate and increase oxytocin levels in mother and baby. This is one of the key elements of successful bonding.
- Less crying & quieter sleep; Calmer babies with well-regulated temperatures tend to cry less, be less stressed and thus have higher quality longer sleep.
Kangaroo Care may also help the baby to receive ‘good bacteria’ from the mother. Some scientists believe this could be an important link in boosting the baby’s immune system and ability to fight disease.
Kangaroo Care should be carried out from birth and continued after the baby is discharged from the hospital.
Baby wraps are the perfect way to conveniently participate in Kangaroo Care both in and out of hospital – allowing you to hold your baby close in the wrap whilst carrying out day to day activities.
Radio Interview: Kangaroo Care explained by Sarah Gregson on Radio Kent
Kangaroo Care Study in Kent
Midwives at Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust made the first UK study to investigate Kangaroo Care in a postnatal ward environment. They found Kangaroo Care babies needed a shorter hospital stay – four days rather than the five for those with ‘usual’ care – and there was more exclusive breastfeeding on discharge from hospital; 72% vs 55%.
The research delivered positive results for Kangaroo Care and won the Royal College of Midwives National Award and an All Party Parliamentary Group Award.
- Award Winning Kangaroo Care Project at Tunbridge Wells Hospital – Royal College of Midwives 2012 (Read More)
- Kangaroo Care in pre-term or low birth weight babies in postnatal ward – British Journal of Midwifery – Sept ’11 (Read More)
- How kangaroo cuddles help Caesarean babies bond with mum – Daily Mail 4-Feb-14 (Read More)
- Skin-to-skin contact after elective caesarean section: Investigating the effect on breastfeeding rates – British Journal of Midwifery – January 2016 (Read More)
Kangaroo Care for Caesarean Birth
The KangaWrap Midwives then applied to conduct further research to find better ways to serve mums who give birth via Caesarean Section. For this, the team designed the ‘KangaWrap Kardi’ to enable mums to have Kangaroo Care (or ‘Skin to Skin’) immediately and in comfort after a Caesarean birth.
The study showed favourable results and, like the KangaWrap, the KangaWrap Kardi is being taken up by other hospitals and birthing centres who are keen to practise Kangaroo Care.
Watch the hospital’s short film to show this baby-friendly Caesarean Birth:
The KangaWrap Kardi is only available for supervised use in hospitals for Caesarean Birth and the hours immediately following it. On discharge from hospital, a KangaWrap is perfect for Kangaroo Care for mum (or dad!) and baby.