Recently, on our Facebook page, we asked our fans if they had used Kangaroo Care when their baby was just a newborn. There as an overwhelming response. All agreed that it had a positive influence on their baby’s growth in those early days.
Babes in Arms are an inquisitive lot, so we went on the hunt for some information that would support the belief that Kangaroo Care is a technique that can assist with bonding and improved health in the early days for both preterm and full term babies. The following post is what we discovered.
Before revealing the latest research into Kangaroo Care, it is best to explain the technique for those of you who are unfamiliar with the practice. Kangaroo Care, in the broadest sense, is where an infant is held skin to skin with an adult. The baby is kept in a simple nappy, and rests against the mother’s naked chest, with her top loosely at the sides. The rise and fall of the mother’s chest as she breathes can assist to stimulate the baby’s own breathing. (many of our fans commented that their baby’s oxygen levels increased each time they were supported in this manner). Slowly, as the baby’s strength increases, the time with babe in arms is increased. Some parents may use this technique for many hours per day.
Kangaroo care is very similar to Babywearing, although there are some fundamental differences. Whereas Kangaroo care is usually practiced with preterm babies with some equipment and medical supervision; Babywearing is practiced with babies of all ages using slings and carriers such as the Peanutshell and Breeze Baby slings and the ERGObaby carrier.
On March 26, 2010, a supplement of the International Journal of Epidemiology, published the findings of research conducted by Dr Joy Lawn of Save the Children which revealed the most effective intervention to reduce newborn and child deaths globally. The most fascinating finding arising from Dr Lawn’s study was the suggestion that up to half of these deaths could be prevented if Kangaroo Mother Care was readily available for preterm babies.
“We are more confident than ever that Kangaroo Mother Care works,” said South African-based Dr. Joy Lawn, newborn health expert for Save the Children, and lead author of the analysis. “No matter if babies are born in Lilongwe, London or Los Angeles, preterm babies need extra care to survive. Kangaroo Mother Care is low-cost and feasible, and we now have proof it is one of the most highly effective ways to give more babies the chance to survive and thrive.”
What is most exciting about this finding is that Kangaroo Care methodology is relatively affordable and readily available to mothers who cannot access the medical technology of richer nations. In fact, Malawi (where 20% of all newborn have low birth weight) is using Kangaroo Care in the majority of their hospitals. A recent BBC documentary, Invisible Lives, told the amazing story of a baby born 14 weeks early and weighing less than 850gms who survived without technology and only Kangaroo Care.
Babywearing and Kangaroo Care
Earlier, we discussed the fundamental differences between the two, but there are also many similarities. Both practices adopt a ‘babes in arms’ approach. Baby is held closely to the parent, usually the mother, where the rhythm of her heart and the rise and fall of her breathing can be felt, and often heard, by the baby. Babywearing differs in that is usually takes place with babies who no longer require the medical support that preterm babies do. It is a practice where the baby is supported in a sling or carrier, and is hands free.
In many ways, Babywearing is the step after Kangaroo Care. It allows the parent to continue the gentle, rhythmic closeness of kangaroo care, but is integrated into a parent’s regular routine. Baby can partake in your normal routines from the safety of their sling or carrier from when they leave hospital, right through to toddlerhood.