Krisanne delivered Kaia Michelle at 24 weeks at 1 pound, 12 ounces. Immediately, Krisanne was separated from her daughter, who was taken an hour away to a special neonatal unit.
The next time Krisanne saw her baby, Kaia was hooked up to monitors and breathing tubes. Krisanne was terrified to hold her, but the nurses encouraged it. Krisanne was instructed to remove her shirt and bra, and the nurses then placed Kaia in her arms.
Krisanne watched Kaia squirm but to Krisanne's astonishment, Kaia fell into a deep, peaceful sleep. "She made me feel like a mom for the first time. I knew at that moment she was going to live," she says.
The skin-to-skin contact Krisanne gave her daughter was first used in 1979 in Bogota, Colombia, in neonatal wards that had a shortage of incubators for babies with severe hospital infections. Neonatologists Edgar Rey and Hector Martinez turned to nature—specifically kangaroos, which hold their young as soon as they are born.
What the doctors—who coined the term "Kangaroo Care"—found was that this skin-to-skin contact not only allowed mothers to leave the hospitals (which decreased overcrowding) but it also decreased their babies' dependency on incubators. And the most astounding? The doctors watched as mortality rates plunged from 70 percent to 30 percent.
Today, doctors across the United States, South America, South Africa, and other countries recommend Kangaroo Care—sometimes referred to as Kangaroo Mother Care—to new moms of both premature and full-term infants. Doctors recommend that this bonding last from 60 minutes to 24 hours a day and can be performed by fathers as well.
"The more skin-to-skin [contact] the better. It should ideally start at birth, but is helpful any time," says Dr. Nils Bergman, senior medical superintendent of Mowbray Maternity Hospital in Cape Town, Africa, where doctors deliver 7,000 children a year.
"Physiology and research provide overwhelming evidence that Kangaroo Mother Care is not only safe but superior to the use of technology such as incubators," Bergman adds. "Depriving babies of skin-to-skin makes alternative stress pathways in the brain, which can lead to ADD, colic, sleep disorders, among other things."
No published studies have found any harmful effects of Kangaroo Care—only its benefits. Consider these:
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