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"Kangarooing" Proving Helpful to Premature Infants

"Kangarooing" Proving Helpful to Premature Infants

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Dr. Kim Mulvihill Reporting When a baby is born prematurely, both the parents and the infant need special care. Now, there's a low-tech technique in the high-tech NICU that seems to be helping these babies.

Baby Naomi has grown a lot. She weighed just 2 pounds, 10 ounces when she was born more than three months premature. "Having her early was a real shock," her mother, Spontaneous Russell, said. "You think you're ready to be a mother, but you're not ready to be a mother who spends everyday in the hospital watching her baby on monitors."

It's also a shock for the baby. Premature infants face many challenges, struggling to live when they are still quite fragile.

But in this high-tech world of medical care, one thing that's making a big difference for these tiny newborns is getting them out of the incubator, skin to skin with Mom or Dad. It's called a "kangaroo hold."

It's similar to what a baby kangaroo experiences in its mothers pouch. "It was nice to be able to touch her and hold her and feel her breath on my skin and have her little fingers grab my finger," Russell said.

The "kangaroo hold," or "kangarooing," goes beyond holding and touching a baby. The skin to skin contact and snug sensation mimic life in the womb, and studies show it carries many health benefits for the preemie. "We see that the baby does better in terms of their oxygen needs, so they need less oxygen. They certainly need, then, fewer interventions from us if they need less oxygen," Allison Brooks, a registered nurse, explained.

Kangarooing helps babies stabilize their pulse and temperature and they may gain weight faster. And the contact helps lower stress for mother and baby alike. "I said, ‘Hi Naomi, hi sweet pea.' And she cracked an eye open and looked at me. It was like ‘Whoa, she really does recognize my voice,'" Russell said.

That time together, that closeness helps parents see past all the tubes and monitors. It lets mothers be mothers and fathers be fathers. "It's important for the baby's brain development. It's important for the baby's response to the environment and most importantly," Brooks said. "It's very important for the relationship that's developing between the parents and their babies, and that is priceless."

Babies don't have to reach a certain age to start kangarooing; they just have to be able to handle the transfer out of the isolet.

Even an infant on a ventilator can be held this way. There are benefits for older preemies and full-term infants as well.

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