Importance of Skin-to-Skin Care in the NICU
Discover the Benefits of Kangaroo (Skin-to-Skin) Care
Kangaroo care — also referred to as skin-to-skin care — is an essential part of your baby’s growth and development. It is the practice of placing the baby, dressed only in a diaper, upright against the bare chest of the baby’s parent. Once the baby is situated, a blanket and hat can be placed to keep the baby warm.
Even if your baby has many tubes and wires, you can still practice kangaroo care throughout your baby’s NICU stay. The NICU staff will help you get comfortable holding your baby on your bare chest. Kangaroo care is a cherished experience for many parents — and one of the first opportunities to truly bond with your baby.
We know that it can be scary the first time you hold your baby in the NICU. Our expert staff is here to help — and to encourage this beautiful bonding experience as soon as it’s safe for your baby. In fact, research shows that babies do best when they’re close to their parents.
- Improves attachment
- Breastfeeds sooner and longer
- Increases immune protection
- Improves quality of sleep
- Stabilizes the baby’s heart rate, breathing, blood pressure, temperature and improves their ability to absorb oxygen
- Stays warmer
- Becomes much calmer
- Decreases stress
- Increases bond
- Increases milk production
- Breastfeeds more easily
- Learns baby’s behavior and feeding cues better
- Increases confidence in caring for baby
- Increases bond
- Decreases stress and anxiety
- Increases feelings of protectiveness towards family
- Raises sense of involvement
Let your baby’s nurse know when you plan on coming each day so they can help coordinate the time for kangaroo care. We recommend that that a skin-to-skin session last at least one hour.
We recommend the following when coming to Wasie NICU for kangaroo care:
- Shower before coming to the hospital and make sure to wear clean, comfortable clothing.
- Check your chest for rashes or open wounds.
- Never come to the NICU if you aren’t feeling well, are running a fever or have been exposed to something contagious.
- Do not smoke or wear heavy perfume/scented lotions before a kangaroo care session.
- Make yourself comfortable, but make sure not to fall asleep during kangaroo care.
- If you need to reposition your baby or end your kangaroo session, call your baby’s nurse for help returning your baby to their crib.
If your baby has a breathing tube:
- A nurse and respiratory therapist will help place your baby skin-to-skin to ensure their breathing tube remains secured.
- Two NICU staff members should always move the baby to prevent an unplanned extubation: one to hold the baby and one to ensure the tube remains secured.
- Make sure the call light is close by before the nurse hands you your baby. If you are uncomfortable or need to change position during kangaroo care, call the nurse first for help.
- Do not put your baby back into bed or reposition the baby without a NICU staff member.
Kangaroo care is not recommended for babies with the following.
- Acute or sudden deterioration in clinical condition within the past 24 hours
- Vasopressor medication use such as:
- Persistent pulmonary hypertension
- Chest tube in place
- Severe hyperbilirubinemia (too much bilirubin in the blood)
- Open abdominal, spinal or surgical defects
- Parents with contagious skin lesions or other infectious diseases
Exceptions can be made on a case-by-case basis per physician approval.
If your baby is not ready for skin-to-skin holding, the NICU team is always consulted to make sure your baby can safely do kangaroo care. If the NICU team feels like your baby is not ready yet, we encourage our parents to bond with your baby in the following ways:
- Gentle, still touch
- Hand hugs
- Music therapy at baby’s bedside
- Reading at baby’s bedside