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Way to Grow

Skin to Skin Care/Kangaroo Care

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Skin-to-skin care, also known as kangaroo care, is a special way you can hold your baby that provides positive sensory stimulation, which is good for brain growth & development. Your baby wears only a diaper and is held in an upright position close against your bare chest. Since your baby already knows you by your scent, your touch, and the way your voice and heartbeat sound, this positive sensory stimulation is comforting and relaxing to your baby. Providing skin-to-skin care as often and as long as possible while your baby is in the NICU is beneficial for both you and your baby.

Reasons to do “Skin-to-Skin Care”:

Some of the ways “skin-to-skin care” can be good for your baby are:

  • Baby stays warmer & body temperature is better
  • Baby has improved heart rate & breathing rate
  • Baby cries less & has lower stress levels
  • Baby has improved sleep
  • Baby has better brain growth & development
  • Baby has decreased pain & risk of infection
  • Baby has improved weight gain
  • Baby & parent bond is strengthened
  • Mom makes more milk & has a better chance of breastfeeding

When to do “Skin-to-Skin Care”:

  • “Skin-to-skin care” can be started as soon as your baby is medically stable, please check with your nurse. If your baby has a breathing tube, read the instructions on page 2.
  • “Skin-to-skin care” should be done for at least 1 hour so your baby can complete a sleep cycle. The longer you can hold, the better for brain development.
  • Avoid doing the following during “Skin-to-Skin care”:
    • Talking on your phone: This is considered negative sensory stimulation & cancels out the positive sensory stimulation your baby is receiving on your chest. Instead softly talk, sing, or read to your baby (reading helps with language development).

How to do “Skin-to-Skin Care”:

  • Let your baby’s nurse know when you will be coming so they can plan for it, especially if your baby has a breathing tube.
  • Shower before coming to the hospital. Do not smoke or use perfume/scented lotions on your skin; they can be very bothersome to your baby. If you have rashes or an open sore on your chest, skin-to-skin care can’t be done until your skin has healed.
  • Wear or bring a loose fitting shirt or a shirt that buttons/zips up the front. You can also use a special kangaroo care wrap.
  • Moms should remove their bras & dads should be bare chested. Receptors between the neck and the navel (belly-button) both on your baby and on you help regulate temperature, heart rate, and breathing rate. Your baby will be in a diaper only and placed skin-to-skin/chest to chest on you so there is good contact.
  • The nurse will help you position your baby on your chest. Once positioned cover the backside of your baby with a blanket your shirt, or KC (Kangaroo Care) wrap. This will help to maintain heat & keep baby warm.
  • Moms should plan to pump their breasts before “Skin-to-Skin care” if their baby is going to “nuzzle” at the breast (root around the nipple to exercise the muscles that will eventually be used for breastfeeding, but not currently breastfeeding).
  • Parents should plan to eat something and use the restroom before they start skin-to-skin care.
  • The nurse will provide you with a chair/foot rest. Make yourself comfortable and enjoy this special time with your baby.

Babies with a Breathing Tube and “Skin-to-Skin Care”

If your baby has a breathing tube there are specific instructions to follow. The breathing tube is very important and helps your baby breathe until he/she can breathe on their own. Any time your baby is moved there is chance that the tube could move & cause breathing problems.

Please do the following to keep your baby safe:

  • The nurse and the respiratory therapist (RT) are the only people who should move your baby from the incubator or crib to your chest. The RT will ensure that the breathing tube stays in place during the transfer.
  • Once in position, the RT will make sure the breathing tube and the hoses attached to it are secure. If you are uncomfortable or need a position change during “skin-to-skin care”, call your nurse for help.
  • You should make sure that your baby’s legs are slightly bent & supported at all times. If not supported at all times, the baby could slide down & the breathing tube could move or even come out.
  • Do not put your baby back into bed or reposition your baby by yourself. The RN/RT will do that.
  • Enjoy this special time with your baby. “Skin-to-Skin care” is the best “medicine” for your baby and only parents can provide it.

Disclaimer: This information is not intended to substitute or replace the professional medical advice you receive from your child's physician. The content provided on this page is for informational purposes only, and was not designed to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease. Please consult your child's physician with any questions or concerns you may have regarding a medical condition.

Reviewed: 02/2021

(757) 668-7000