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Inspira’s neonatal nurses in Vineland and Mullica Hill are committed to promoting skin to skin contact, or Kangaroo Care as we call it, because it is one of the most important ways that new babies and mom or dad bond. Maintaining this most coveted bonding is especially important and challenging for babies who need extra care when they are born. Now, the COVID-19 pandemic has made this bonding even more challenging. It was inspiring to see how the team at Inspira Medical Center Vineland’s Deborah F. Sager Neonatal Intensive Care Unit continued their annual celebration of National Kangaroo Care Day on May 1 and we want to share more about this important care philosophy.
While the pandemic continues, strict limitations are in place for visitors in our hospitals. However, Inspira has accommodated the important needs of parents and their new babies. Currently one parent at a time can visit their baby in our new neonatal intermediate care nursery at Inspira Medical Center Mullica Hill and the Deborah F. Sager NICU at Inspira Vineland. Parents visiting the nurseries must wear masks to protect their sons and daughters. Still, the dedicated nurses have ensured Kangaroo Care continues.
“Kangaroo Care is a clinical practice that promotes health benefits for infants and their families,” says Jennifer Thomas, R.N., B.S.N., nurse manager, NICU, Inspira Medical Center Vineland. “There is substantial evidence that Kangaroo Care has a major positive effect on babies and their parents.”
Thomas explains that Kangaroo Care is now considered a crucial therapy to foster growth and development of premature infants and their brain development. The chest to chest contact between baby and mother (or father) offers developmentally appropriate therapy for hospitalized preterm and term infants. She believes NICU’s must take full advantage of this intervention in order to maximize the development of the preterm infant, who is still supposed to be in the womb, as well as the sick newborn.
The Benefits of Kangaroo Care
The benefits of Kangaroo Care include stabilization of the baby’s heart rate, improved, more regular breathing patterns, improved oxygen saturation levels, thermoregulation, gain in sleep time, improvement in weight gain, decreased stress and crying, greatly minimized pain, increased initiation, duration and exclusivity of breast feeding, improved brain development, cognitive and psychomotor development, earlier hospital discharge and reprieve from a stressful NICU environment.
Nurses are instrumental in implementing Kangaroo Care and in helping preterm infants transition to breastfeeding before discharge when possible. Nurses can help parents recognize that Kangaroo Care can and does promote exclusive breast milk feeds early in the infant’s hospital course and can help increase parent willingness to provide periods of Kangaroo Care. “Touch is so important to the healthy development of an infant,” says Thomas. “During Kangaroo Care the infant comes into contact with maternal heart sounds, regular maternal breathing, and warmth and prone positioning, all of which offer calming stimulus across the auditory, tactile, vestibular, and thermal sensor systems which may alter the perception of pain.”
Kangaroo Care should be part of all NICU care due to its numerous physiologic and emotional benefits for both infants and parents. The admission to the NICU frequently is stressful for a family. This is especially significant as we battle Covid-19. Kangaroo Care can help to improve this high stress environment and foster bonding and healing and an overall sense of wellbeing for our families.