Hold Me Close
Skin-to-skin contact is good for all babies, but it's especially helpful for infants born prematurely. That's why most neonatal intensive care units encourage "kangaroo care," where a mom places her preemie on her bare chest, holding him tummy-to-tummy. "This kind of contact relaxes a preterm infant and can help him grow," says Susan Ludington, PhD, a professor of pediatric nursing at Case Western Reserve University, in Cleveland, who has studied kangaroo care extensively.
A Worldwide Technique
The practice began in South America in the late 1970s as a way to care for preemies in poor areas with limited neonatal care. Because it has so many benefits, kangaroo care subsequently became popular around the globe. "We know that this kind of skin-to-skin contact can encourage sleep and weight gain and can reduce infections and breathing problems in preterm infants," Dr. Ludington says.
A Boon for All Babies
Even full-term babies can benefit: In a study published in the journal Pediatrics, researchers found that healthy, full-term babies who'd had kangaroo care slept more, fussed and cried less, and made fewer startled motions than those who went straight to the nursery.
Originally published in the May 2009 issue of Parents magazine.