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May 15, 2020
Kangaroo Mother Care Awareness Day is celebrated every May 15th, and with good reason. It's a natural method of post-birth baby care that's been shown to help premature babies stabilize, promote a close parental bond, and improve breastfeeding outcomes.
While the term "kangaroo care" often makes us think of just holding baby skin-to-skin, there's a bit more to the Kangaroo Mother Care method than that. When practicing KMC, parents strive to have as much skin-to-skin contact with their baby as possible, with round-the-clock contact being the ideal. For some premature babies, this may require the use of assistive technology.
Kangaroo Mother Care also includes breastfeeding, and the natural skin-to-skin contact achieved when holding baby or wearing them in a sling improves breastfeeding outcomes by allowing baby to naturally find their way to the nipple when they're hungry and learn to latch without pressure (source). The care method is also centered around early hospital release when possible, allowing parents to care for their child in the low-stress, comfortable environment that will be their home.
KMC's ability to stabilize premature babies was illustrated in a noteworthy 2004 study in which Dr. Nils Bergman observed two groups of premature babies; one group received Kangaroo Mother Care, while the other group was incubated. While all the babies in the KMC group stabilized within six hours, only half of the incubated group were able to stabilize within that time.
So, why does KMC work? Skin-to-skin contact between parents and baby stimulates the development of neural pathways, and allows for a connection that makes baby feel safe and calm. This steadies breathing and heart rate, stabilizing vital signs and preventing the stress that's caused by separation. When premature babies are removed from their mother in an unstable state, they're unable to access the benefits that Kangaroo Mother Care can offer, and they may be worse off for it.
Wearing your baby makes Kangaroo Mother Care a breeze, and there's plenty of good reasons to continue on with babywearing as they grow. We The Parents have detailed the science behind 23 ways babywearing can benefit you, so take a peek at their infographic to get educated.
Neve Spicer is the founder and editor of WeTheParents, the pregnancy and parenting guide. As the mamma of three wonderful kids, she shares her experience and knowledge with her fellow parents to make their journeys easier.