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What is kangaroo care for babies and why do health experts encourage it?

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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KWWL) -- With National Kangaroo Awareness Day coming up on May 15, UnityPoint Health - St. Luke's NICU nurses are sharing the benefits of kangaroo care.

It's a method of holding a baby that involves skin-to-skin contact. The diapered baby may have a blanket covering their back. Then, they are placed in an upright position against a parent's bare chest inside their shirt, similar to a kangaroo's pouch.

In the late 1970s, kangaroo care started in response to the 70% death rate in preterm babies in Bogota, Columbia. The babies were dying of infections, respiratory problems and a lack of attention, UnityPoint said.

Researches determined that babies who were held close to their mothers' bodies survived and thrived.

In the U.S., hospitals that practice kangaroo care encourage mothers and fathers to provide skin-to-skin contact with their preterm newborns for several hours each day.

BENEFITS FOR BABY:

  • Stabilization of the baby's heart rate
  • Improved (more regular) breathing pattern
  • Improved oxygen saturation levels (an indicator of how well oxygen is being delivered to all the infants’ organs and tissues)
  • Develop better sleep patterns
  • Increased weight gain and growth
  • Decreased crying and pain
  • Keeps the infant warm
  • More successful breastfeeding
  • Earlier hospital discharge

BENEFITS FOR PARENTS:

  • Improved bonding, feelings of closeness with their babies
  • Increased breast milk supply
  • Increased confidence in ability to care for their babies
  • Increased confidence in the ability to care for their baby
  • Increased sense of control
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Olivia Schmitt

Morning Anchor

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