Kangaroo Care: The Secret Ingredient to Helping Your NICU Baby Thrive

May 14, 2014

2013-07-05 15.30.23This was the moment that I lived for in the NICU. Her small body placed on my bare chest, feeling her breathe on me; we were so in sync – just the two of us. These moments made bad days better and filled my heart with hope that ‘this too shall pass.’ The first time I got to hold Bree, I was so nervous and excited all in the same breath. I had never held anything so tiny. The nurse untangled her multiple wires and placed her palm-sized body on my bare chest. It was the first time she opened her eyes since birth. She looked up at me and I looked at her, our eyes locked. I had no idea what I was doing, but I knew I had never loved anyone as much as this tiny human.

The unknown territory of the NICU left me and my husband feeling helpless and insecure. How were we ever going to bring home this tiny baby? It seemed that there were so many discouraging days, and the road ahead was a long and hard one. When Bree had good days we got to do kangaroo care! This kept us going. She smelled so wonderfully sweet, her skin so soft, and her tiny hands always wrapped around my finger as we snuggled close. Kangaroo care was the sweetest time for me and Bree. As I got more comfortable with kangaroo care, I began bringing in books and reading to her. I would sing to her and pray over her. These are still some of my most precious moments with Bree.

My husband and I chose to room in with Bree, and so my favorite time of the day was the 3am feedings. The NICU was still bustling, but in our room the door was shut and only the whispers of nurses were heard. It was the only time of the day when it was quiet. It was only me and her. I would stroke her bald head and pray over her: strength, growth, and life. Holding her on my bare chest, skin to skin, I got to know her. I could feel when she was doing well with her breathing, and when her SATS started to fall. This was my path to getting to know my daughter.


My husband wanted every opportunity that he could to be with our little girl as well. Kangaroo care is a perfect time for dads to bond with their baby.  He would excitedly ask the nurse each night if she was doing well enough for him to do some kangaroo time. Holding her close, he would notice things about her that I had missed and vice-versa. He would comment how she would smile as he stroked her little head, I would mention that she wrapped her fingers around my thumb. We celebrated these moments! Each day, we tried to mention some good thing that we had experienced in the NICU, and most often it was centered around kangaroo time! We were so privileged and humbled to be getting to know this tiny human. Kangaroo care allowed us to become more bonded and confident parents.  It also benefited our tiny baby a great deal! Here are some of the greatest benefits that your tiny one will receive each time you hold him/her on your chest.

Benefits for Baby

  1. Regulates baby’s heartbeat.
  2. According to a National Geographic study, babies that weighed under 1,000 grams at birth had a 90% survival rate when kangaroo care was practiced.
  3. Babies that have had regular kangaroo time have lasting results! Studies show that kangaroo care has results that are evident even in elementary school. Those that had kangaroo care as infants scored higher on IQ tests and cognitive development, they handled stress better, and had regular sleeping patterns.
  4. Babies have better breathing patterns.
  5. Improves baby’s immunity.
  6. Helps with weight gain.
  7. Regulates baby’s temperature.
  8. Increases bonding between baby and parent that lasts a lifetime!

Benefits for Parents

  1. Parents learn a lot about their baby.2013-07-05 15.32.02
  2. Gives parents confidence.
  3. Increases mom’s breast milk supply.
  4. Creates a strong bond.
  5. Can be healing for you and baby from traumatic birth experiences or NICU experiences.
  6. Allows dads to be involved and feel connected to baby as well.

Breanna is almost 10 months old now, and we have continued kangaroo care since leaving the NICU. Kangaroo care can be practiced at home too, and it is a great way to continue helping your baby develop their physical and cognitive abilites. Upon discharge, we continued kangaroo care and noticed Bree’s weight and cognitive development make incredible progress. Kangaroo care has lasting effects that are so important for you and your child.  So be sure to take some time today to hold your baby close.