Tasheena Purdue knows the benefits of skin-to-skin contact. She’s a hospice caregiver in Canton and a mom to 5. She’s been diligent to provide “kangaroo care” for her children especially with her newborn son, Nehemiah, who is a patient our neonatal intensive care unit.
Kangaroo care refers to the act of placing your newborn, with a diaper only, on your chest – skin to skin.
Nehemiah was born July 1 at just 25 weeks gestation and weighed 1 pound and 3 ounces. “I hold him every chance I get, which is nearly every day,” Tasheena shared. “He really falls into a deep sleep when he’s on my chest. I rub his back…and his oxygen levels improve.”
“It’s good for you and it’s good for baby,” says registered nurse Lela Bartley, who has been a NICU education coordinator for more than 30 years, but an Akron Children’s employee for 45 years. “Allowing the baby to sleep on their parent’s chest for an hour or more is really beneficial. The baby goes into a deeper sleep in kangaroo care than in a bed.”
Numerous studies have documented the benefits of kangaroo care: improved heart rate, oxygen saturation, breathing, sleep, weight gain, breastfeeding and reduced crying. Research has also found positive associations with cognitive and motor skills, and psychosocial benefits, such as attachment and parental confidence.
“For mom, it increases her milk production and reduces post-partum depression,” Lela added. “Kangaroo care is a way to love your baby, and that increases everyone’s happiness.”
To celebrate and increase awareness for kangaroo care, Akron Children’s NICUs are holding a Kangaroo-a-thon, which includes a challenge to get as many parents kangarooing as possible from Sept. 17-29.
For encouragement, there are giveaways, raffle prizes, cookies and Lunch & Learn classes for parents to share experiences with each other.
As many NICU parents will testify, kangaroo care is such a simple gesture – and pleasure – with both immediate and life-long benefits.