It's kangaroo care awareness month and with Johanna quickly approaching her one year birthday it makes me really emotional thinking about when she was first born. First off, kangaroo care is another term used for doing skin to skin with your newborn. It emphasizes the importance of holding the naked or partially dressed child against the bare skin of a parent, typically the mother, for as long as possible each day! The bond that you feel when holding your newborn this way is incredible and even though they can't express it, baby is feeling the same way you are.
This was literally my favorite part if the newborn phase and to be quite honest I miss it so much! I remember I used to cry when holding her this way not only because becoming a mother is such an overwhelming feeling but because I was so grateful and happy that I had a healthy baby girl to hold so close. I could literally feel the bond between us forming. I know some Mama's who were unable to do this immediately after birth for various reasons and I can't imagine the feelings they must have had. If this is you, you're still an amazing Mama no matter what!
I've talked about this in a previous blog but when Johanna was 1 week old I had to start feeding her formula in addition to breast milk. She was an excellent breastfeeding baby but she was small so the doctors wanted me to beef her up using formula. We did skin to skin for 72 hours straight. During this time I nursed her every 2 hours while holding a tube in her mouth and pouring formula through it. Talk about some serious kangaroo care!
It must be noted that the idea of kangaroo care was first introduced in Colombia due to the high rate of deaths in premature babies. Researchers found that babies who were held close to their mothers bodies for large portions of the day not only survived but thrived. The concept was introduced to the United States to provide skin to skin contact for premature babies. After seeing its benefits, it is now recommended for preterm babies and term babies.
There is a long list of benefits for baby when talking about kangaroo care. It stabilizes heart and respiratory rates, improves oxygen saturation rates, provides better regulation for the newborn's body temperature and conserves the newborn's body calories. The newborn will likely fall asleep within minutes of snuggling into the Mama's breasts. The extra sleep that the newborn gets helps baby conserve energy and redirects calorie expenditures towards growth and weight gain. Research has also shown that kangaroo care results in positive effects on brain development.
Kangaroo care has its benefits for the Mama too! Doctor's will often place the baby on the Mama's chest immediately after birth. I learned that by doing this it can reduce hemorrhaging for the Mama. I was on cloud 9 and not even thinking about it but Johanna was placed on my chest immediately after I pushed her out! When the nurse took her off of me to weigh her and measure her, the doctor insisted that she put her back on my chest. I'm 100% sure I was not hemorrhaging but I did ask the nurse later on why the doctor was so adamant about doing this. She told me that immediate skin-to-skin prevents hemorrhaging and regulates the body's hormones. How crazy is that?! The human body is fascinating!
No matter when you start skin-to-skin or how long you do it for, it's an amazing experience for both baby and Mama. It is recommended by the Academy of Pediatrics to do skin-to-skin for 60 minutes a day, everyday for the first 3 months of baby’s life. It's completely fine to go past 3 months but the first 3 months is the most beneficial for baby! I hope you Mama's take as much out of kangaroo care as I did. I loved it!