Kangaroo Care

Mamas on Bedrest: Hold Your Baby Close

October 18th, 2013

002_02Holding your baby close is one of the best ways to help your newborn adapt to his/her new environment.

Regardless of whether your baby was delivered vaginally or via a cesarean section, the difference between the internal womb environment and the delivery suite (even in a birthing center or at home) is a dramatic shock to the wee one’s system. Consider this; in the womb, your baby has lived in a perfectly controlled environment. The temperature is constant. There is no stark florescent lighting. There is plenty of food. There is a steady sway of movement from mama, and a soothing rhythm of sound from mama’s heatbeat as well as from her voice. Your baby is safe, secure and content. Once born into the outside world, your baby has to contend with a vast drop in temperature and has to learn to maintain his/her own body temperature. Where breathing was once easy and facilitated by the placental connection with mama, babies now have to breathe completely on their own. The food supply via the umbilical cord ceases and babies have to learn to suck-either mama’s breast or a bottle-all while breathing, maintaining their body temperature and adapting to the myriad of sounds and lights now surrounding them. It’s as if our wee ones have been transported to another planet and in a sense, they have! And it’s really hard work for them to adapt.

As we said in our last post, “Mamas on Bedrest: No Crying It Out”, a baby’s only means of communication is to cry. As mamas (and dads), our job is to “hear the cry” and to discern what our babies need. For most new mamas, this is a steep learning curve. But the one thing that can help both you and your baby be successful during this time is skin to skin contact, “Kangaroo Care”, holding your baby close.

I wanted to bring this issue to light because I have heard countless people tell new mothers, “Put that baby down. You don’t want to spoil him/her!” Nothing could be further from the truth! Holding a newborn in your arms close to your body won’t spoil him/her. In fact, skin to skin contact or “Kangaroo Care” allows your baby to regulate his/her heartbeat, regulate their breathing, to calm down, maintain adequate body weight, sleep more soundly, self soothe, breastfeed more successfully and gain weight at an appropriate rate.

Kangaroo Care was first introduced in Columbia in the late 1970’s. Burdened with shortages of hospital staff and resources, Dr. Edgar Rey Sanabria began having mothers of low birth weight infants hold their babies on their chest between their breasts. The babies were wearing only diapers and the mothers were also bare chested. A blanket was placed across the infant and mama. In this way, mama’s body heat helped warm the baby, and whenever baby was hungry, baby could nurse. Dr. Sanabria found that babies who had skin to skin contact with their mothers (and fathers) had better temperature regulation, were more successful breastfeeders, gained weight and were able to sleep and self soothe better. This technique was soon prescribed for premature infants. Preemies who had lots of skin to skin contact progressed faster than premature infants who did not and were discharged sooner. The practice finally caught on in North America in the NICU’s. Despite all the medical technology, close contact with parents is still the best medicine for even the most fragile infants once they are stable enough to be held. Frequent Skin to Skin Contact (Kangaroo Care) is now endorsed by the March of Dimes, The American Academy of Pediatrics and The World Health Organization. Skin to Skin Contact is recommended for term infants as well.

Mamas, you can’t hold your baby too close or too much in those first newborn days. The more you hold your baby close, the more you allow your baby to adapt his/her internal environment (breathing, heartbeat and temperature) with his/her external environment (lights, sounds, clothing, etc..). Skin to skin contact promotes bonding and this is a very important reason for dads to get in on the act. Babies need to know who their dads are and they will connect by the feel of Dad’s skin, the warmth from Dad’s body, Dad’s heartbeat and Dad’s breathing rhythm. Skin to Skin contact enables Babies to  come to know Dad as “a safe and secure being”, someone who is also present to meet their needs and love them. This promotes and hastens the bonding process between dads and their babies, a bond that will carry all the way through a baby’s life!

If you baby is crabby or fussy and not hungry, wet, ill or otherwise in distress, try sitting Skin to Skin. Sit in a comfortable chair, strip your baby down to his/her diaper and place them on your bare chest. Add a slight rock and firm but gentle hand on their little back, they will settle down in no time!


Additional Reference:

Kangaroo Care. The Holden Newborn Intensive Care Unit, The University of Michigan Health System.

Mamas on Bedrest: Your Love is The Medicine Your Little One Needs to Survive

August 31st, 2010

The Most Heartbreaking News

It was almost too heartbreaking to read. After 20 minutes of trying, neonatologists had to tell Kate Ogg that her tiny little son Jamie, born at a mere 27 weeks and weighing only 2 lbs, was gone.

A Mother’s Loving Touch

Despite the fact that twin sister Emily was doing well, Kate Ogg and her husband David clung to each other and tiny Jamie completely absorbed in their grief. “I couldn’t let him go,” says Ogg. She stayed there, clutching the tiny body to her chest. Miraculously, after two hours of being hugged, stroked, talked to and kissed by his mom, little Jamie began showing signs of life.  First, it was just a gasp. The doctors assured Ogg and her husband that this was simply reflex a breath and that little Jamie was in fact gone. But when the infant began to stir a bit more, Ogg put a drop of breast milk on her finger and little Jamie drank it. Ogg could hardly believe her eyes. Then little Jamie opened his eyes, lifted his hand and grasped her finger. He finally turned his head from side to side. Even the doctors stared in disbelief. Little Jamie was alive, safe and secure in his mother’s arms against her chest.

Kangaroo Care

Numerous research studies have reported on the effects of a mother’s love and touch on infants, especially premature infants. Kangaroo Care, the position that Ogg unknowingly assumed with little Jamie, consists of placing a diaper clad premature baby in an upright position on a parent’s bare chest – tummy to tummy, in between the breasts.  The baby’s head is turned so that the ear is above the parent’s heart. Many studies report that this position soothes the infant; steadying heart rate, calming respiration, alleviating tummy upset and soothing colic. This soothing position has also shown to help babies sleep, gain weight and thus progress enough to leave the NICU and go home. Some researchers dispute the efficacy of kangaroo care, stating that data is too subjective and there are few measurable endpoints.  Most studies have proven that Kangaroo Care has a major, positive impact on babies and their parents. Some studies have proven there is no change, but no study has proven that Kangaroo Care has hurt either parent or baby.

The Mind/Body Connection, A Mother’s Love and Mamas on Bedrest

Jennifer Gunter, MD, gives a wonderful explanation of Mind-Body medicine in her book, The Preemie Primer.

“Mind-Body medicine is the idea that our thoughts and emotions influence physical health, and harnessing this connection improves both emotional and physical well-being.”

Gunter further explains that chemicals such as neurotransmitters and hormones send messages all over the body. These chemicals can either stimulate a stress response or be controlled and used to effect positive health outcomes. While thoughts are not enough to cure disease alone, they can certainly be complimentary.

So what does this mean for Mamas on Bedrest? It means that your thoughts can influence your pregnancy outcome. Bed rest is never anyone’s idea of a great way to spend pregnancy. Unfortunately, about one out of every five pregnancies ends up on bed rest for part of the pregnancy. You may be feeling somewhat discouraged on bed rest, worried and afraid that things won’t turn out well. Stop those negative thoughts-NOW! Because your thoughts affect your body’s chemicals, negative thoughts send out negative brain chemicals and hormones and can have a negative effect on your health and the health of your baby. Start now to tell your baby how much you love him or her. Sing happy songs to your baby, read to him and envision holding your little darling. While this may seem silly, you are actually changing the chemical make up of your body and the chemical make up of your pregnancy. But don’t believe me, look at what soothing words and loving thoughts did for little Jamie Ogg!

How have you used positive imagery and soothing thoughts to get you through your bed rest experience? Share you successes as well as you challenges in our comments section.

Do finances have you worried while on bed rest? Stay tuned to some exciting news coming from Mamas on Bedrest & Beyond.