FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – It may look like a simple cuddle, but it can make a big difference in the progress of a preemie baby.
“The babies would have been in the womb close to their mother for the duration of the pregnancy, so it’s more natural physiology and the babies do well with that,” Dr. Janet Leezer, a neonatologist and the medical director of the DuPont Hospital NICU, said.
In Kangaroo Care, the baby lies on the parent’s chest to have skin-to-skin contact for several hours at a time.
“At least a two to four-hour window because it matches the natural sleep cycles. We don’t want to move babies too much in and out of their isolettes,” Leezer said.
Doctors said studies showed Kangaroo Care can help regulate the baby’s temperature, breathing and heart rate, improve digestion and improve their growth.
“Ultimately all those things can lead to a shorter stay in hospitalization,” Leezer said.
The process also benefits mom and dad.
“For parents, it helps them bond with their infant and that’s critical in the ICU. It’s a very out-of-control environment for parents and it helps create a sense of control for them. It can help with moms who are breastfeeding. It helps with milk production,” Leezer said.
Rhian Crider finds her Kangaroo Care time with her daughter Adelynn as a time for escape.
“We just get our own quiet time. It’s like the whole world stops for that moment,” Crider said.
Crider was pregnant with twins, but the boy died on March 17. She had to carry him with Adelynn until 35 days ago when she delivered. She was only 29 weeks along, but Adelynn’s placenta sack didn’t have enough fluid in it, Crider explained. When doctors told her about Kangaroo Care she hadn’t heard of it but didn’t hesitate.
“We just need her to gain weight. She was born one pound six ounces and now she’s up to two pounds two ounces, so we’re over that hurdle,” she said. “Her being here for so long, you want to hold her because you feel helpless and can’t do anything, but this is what I can do to help her.”
Across the hall in DuPont’s NICU, Rose Foltz has some Kangaroo Care time with her son, Keenan. He was born at 24 weeks five weeks ago. Keenan was finally strong enough last week for Foltz to start Kangaroo Care, but she already knew about the routine. Her other son was also a preemie.
“Use every opportunity you have to do it. I’ve seen the benefits with my son, another preemie, who is now five years old and already with this one. Use the time. It helps,” Foltz said. “It’s an indescribable feeling knowing you’re doing all you can for them and knowing that this benefits them right along with all the medications that they need.”
The same idea is done with babies who don’t need to go to the NICU.
“Skin-to-skin immediately after birth is hugely beneficial for well-babies as well,” Elizabeth Kissinger, a registered nurse and the birth place team leader, said. “Postpartum moms as well should do skin-to-skin as much as they want. There’s not too much skin-to-skin you can do. Having that baby skin-to-skin helps with bonding and helps with breastfeeding by having those hormones released.”
Thursday is International Kangaroo Care day and parents who did Kangaroo Care at DuPont got blankets and healthy snacks. The staff is encouraging the practice and trying to raise awareness about it all week long.
“This will help her in the future. When she leaves the NICU I know we’re on the right road,” Crider said.