Hand to Hold's Official Blog: Written by Parents for Parents

The Pros and Cons of Kangaroo Care

Holding your beautiful little miracle brings forth a wide array of emotion; fear, sadness, happiness, and sometimes even guilt but the importance of your touch can be a life changing event for your preemie. Kangaroo care is an up close and personal encounter, it consists of placing your child in their diaper on your bare chest. Numerous studies have been done on kangaroo care with mixed results, some have shown no change while others have shown improvements in o2 saturation, colic and eating habits.  A remarkable study was performed in Bogota, Columbia where many babies were dieing soon after birth do to the lack of medical care. After enforcing kangaroo care the mortality rate went from a huge 70% to a miraculous 30%, babies were not only surviving…they were thriving. Another miraculous story comes from Australia, where a twin pronounced dead at 27 weeks was resuscitated due to kangaroo care:

Kangaroo care has been used for centuries to keep the babies temperature at bay and raise the survival of infants when incubators were not a factor.The benefits of kangaroo care are numerous: The baby has a stable heart rate (no bradycardia), more regular breathing (a 75 percent decrease in apneic episodes), improved oxygen saturation levels, no cold stress, longer periods of sleep, more rapid weight gain, more rapid brain development, reduction of “purposeless” activity, decreased crying, longer periods of alertness, more successful breastfeeding episodes, and earlier hospital discharge

During kangaroo care, a premature baby’s overall growth rate increases. This is thought to be due to the ability to go into a deep sleep on the parents chest. Studies show during the last six weeks of pregnancy, babies sleep twenty to twenty-two hours per day. In a typical NICU, however, they spend less than two hours total in deep, quiet sleep. (I’m sure we all remember the constant beeping of the monitors). With kangaroo care, the infant typically snuggles into the chest of his/her parent and is deeply asleep within just a few minutes. These babies gain weight faster than their non-kangarooed counterparts, and have shown they lose less birth weight.

The easiest way that I have heard of describing kangaroo care and its benefits is that separation of a baby born early to its mother is not biologically normal since they would still be in your tummy. Although its impossible to spend 24 hours a day seven days a week holding your preemie, every second counts.

holding my 27weekers hand

Some hospitals frown upon this method due to the sensitive skin of preemies and the amount of stress it can sometimes cause, it can be a terrifying experience at first. In my personal experiences it was very scary, I held my preemie when he was four days old for the first time (and held him for all of the other 99 days he was there).  He was still hooked on the ventilator and was unable to move. The nurses had to keep readjusting me, as I was too scared to move him myself and was overwhelmed by the situation.  Within five minutes my little 27weekers eyes opened up and he gazed up at me and held my pinky with his little hand and I couldn’t even believe that just an hour before I had no intention of holding him for fear of hurting him. It was such an incredible moment that I will never forget. In the beginning we were only allowed to hold him for five minute spans because of his bradycardias and o2 saturation. The kangaroo care for our preemie never helped these, infact he had more of them because he would try to match our much slower heartbeats. But the experience was something I would never take back, the nurses watched us closely and we knew exactly what to do when he stats would drop. Towards the second month we were allowed to change his diaper, take his temp and take him out of his incubator ourselves and as soon as he was put in a crib we could take him out for however long we liked, including walks around the hospital (oxygen tank in tow!). Due to the kangaroo care that we started doing so early I felt so much more comfortable with my preemie and  felt much more independent and confident about taking care of him.

Enforcing kangaroo care is initially up to the parent and must be an educated decision, it might be scary but I truly hope you take the step to holding your infant no matter how small, our nicu nurses were incredible with watching over us and making sure our baby was stable, but the decision must be made between you and your nurses and what they think is alright. Every baby reacts differently, sometimes we couldn’t hold our preemie due to his instant bradys when we held him and other times he would lay with us for hours without even the slightest dip. Overall this is an incredible experience, and I still do it to this day nine months later! What are your thoughts about kangaroo care?


  1. sheri armstrong says:

    my son was born aug,17th,2011 at 29 weeks/1 day waight 3lb 4.5oz born 11 weeks early thanks for ur story

  2. My wife and I just started the kangaroo care with our triplet micro-preemies. I think it’s a great thing. On of our babies was having some drops in his stats, but as soon as we began holding him his stats straightened out. And as long as we held him (5 minutes). His stats never dropped. I would definately recommends kangaroo care for all preemies. It also gives the parents a chance to bond a little more with their babies. I was scared at first, but it is an incredible feeling. Good luck to all new preemie parents. And cherish every second you have with your little miracles.

  3. I noticed my daughters breathing slowed down once I did skin to skin. Soon after she was able to eat. I am a fond believer of kangaroo care and still do it now that she is home with us.

  4. Karla Santini says:

    My baby was born on August 28, 2011 on the 25 +1 day of gestation. We start kangaroo her on the 2 week of life, thanks to that she not longer need the breathing machine and she gain almost 50 grams per day

  5. My baby was born at 26 weeks weighing 1lb 9 oz. I started Kangaroo Care on her 5th day of life and have held her everyday since. She is way ahead of the curve at 34 weeks adjusted age and is doing amazing. At 3lbs 14oz, she is feeding from the breast and bottle, keeping her body temperature stable on her own, and her bradys and desats have dramatically decreased. I credit much of her progress to our twice daily Kangaroo Care sessions…and her daddy and I plan to continue the KC when we get to take her home her in the next couple weeks!

  6. Congrads Macee on almost graduating the NICU! My son was born Oct 25th. I had my first Kangaroo Care with him yesterday. The day before I did, the nurse was nervous that he wouldn’t tolerate it, but he tolerated it for the whole hour that they give us. It wasn’t until after they put him back in theventilator that his oxygen started to act up and the bells went off. It was the the first time I actually felt him as a baby and not a science exhibit. I have been changing his diapers and chheking his temp, but it really doesn’t compare to being able to hold him close to me and kiss his little forehead. I can’t wait to do it again.

  7. Josephine Gonsaro says:

    My preemies was born at 31 weeks weighing 1.5kg . The kangaroo method truly helped DH and I . We didnt encounter any apnoea attacks once at home . My preemies is now 3 months old weighing 3.3kg ! Its amazing .

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