Preemies are special, they are warriors. The ones who are unstoppable and guess who do they imbibe this attribute from? Their MOTHER, of course! The way in which a preemie is welcomed into the world during the first hours after birth can have major consequences for a lifetime.
The amazing benefits of mother’s touch for Preemies
Preemies are special, they are warriors. The ones who are unstoppable and guess who do they imbibe this attribute from? Their MOTHER, of course! The way in which a preemie is welcomed into the world during the first hours after birth can have major consequences for a lifetime. This transition in the neo-natal unit into their mother’s arms, is perhaps one of the most crucial moments. The easiest way to form a secure attachment is skin-to-skin contact i.e. Kangaroo mother care (KMC).
Kangaroo care is a form of developmental care that has benefits for all newborns, especially those who are in the neonatal intensive care unit. Also known as skin-to-skin contact or kangaroo mother care, kangaroo care involves direct contact when a newborn is placed skin-to-skin on mom or dad’s bare chest.
Mom or dad may gently hold their baby where they can be rocked, cuddled and hear comforting sounds of their parent’s heartbeat and voice. Even in the stressful environment of the NICU, parent and child can quietly bond and get to know one another. Kangaroo care is easy to do, inexpensive and highly rated by parents.
Skin-to-skin contact does a lot more than promote bonding. The power of first expressions is well-known, and none can be more significant than experiences of a newborn with her mother. The first hour of life outside the womb is a special time when a baby meets his or her parents for the first time and a family is formed.
What are the benefits of Kangaroo Mother Care to preemies?
- Healthier heart rates and respiration. Babies who suffered from respiratory distress and stayed in Kangaroo Care positions were relieved within 48 hours without respirators. One study concluded that heart rates for infants given Kangaroo Care were more regular than babies not given it.
- Increased breastfeedings. A study found that infants held for more than 50 minutes were 8 times more likely to breastfeed spontaneously. Skin-to-skin contact also increases milk let-down.
- Improved immunity. Premature [babies] seem to have poor immune systems and are susceptible to allergies, infections and feeding problems. Early skin-to-skin contact dramatically reduces these problems.
- Increased weight gain. A study concluded that infants given Kangaroo Care gained weight more quickly than babies not given it; weight gain can often lead to shorter hospital stays.
- Regulated body temperature. Mothers are able to control the infant's temperature better than an incubator. Core temperature can rise by two degrees centigrade if baby is cold. and fall 1 degree if baby is hot. Thus the mother’s body is the best baby warmer in the Universe!
Importance of physical bond for the baby
Babies need affection and preemies need that extra ounce of love always, especially because they are special. Therefore, this once-in-a-lifetime experience has a lot of miracles to offer to the child. Many of the benefits of kangaroo care to a newborn revolve around their feelings of safety, warmth and comfort. Research shows greater bonding with parents results into less stress, calm and more blissful ringing of the child which positively impacts the brain and emotional development. KMC also helps the preemie in:
- Regulating heart rate, breathing and temperature
- Improving head circumference growth and weight gain
- Stabilizing organ function and self-regulation abilities
- Less pain and crying
- Better sleep patterns
- Avoids infections and more desire for food (breastfeeding)
- Improving nutrition from mothers’ increase in breastmilk production
- Enjoying a shorter hospital stay
These benefits leave a significant, long-lasting social and behavioural protective effects on the child for a lifetime. Babies were more alert after six months. In early childhood, children receiving kangaroo care also show increased social competence, a positive sense of self and improved cognitive and motor development. These benefits are all signs of healthy brain development. In 2016 a study was released that revealed kangaroo care held significant, long-lasting social and behavioral protective effects even 20 years later!
Helps mother in enhancing connections
Mothers who hold their newborns new-borns skin to skin after birth have increased maternal behaviours, show more confidence in caring for their babies and breastfeed for longer durations. Being skin to skin with mother protects the newborn from the well-documented negative effects of separation, supports optimal brain development and facilitates attachment, which promotes the infant's self-regulation over time.
• Mothers who practice kangaroo care were more likely to breastfeed exclusively
• Increases child bonding and helps moms to breastfeed longer
• Regulates lactation balance thereby producing more milk
• Helps in reducing maternal anxiety and post-partum depression
• Physiologic stability
• Creates a healthier bond with the child
Authored by Dr. Vijaya Krishnan, CPM (Certified Professional Midwife) and Founder, The Sanctum Natural Birth Center.