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Rady Children's Specialists

Skin-To-Skin (Kangaroo) Care

What Is Kangaroo Care?

  • Skin-to-skin, or kangaroo care, is a special way to hold your baby skin-to-skin upright between your breasts.
  • Your baby is dressed only in a diaper and a hat.
  • Your shirt or blouse is closed around your baby with a blanket on top.
  • Fathers and others may do kangaroo care, but mothers do it most often because of the chance for breastfeeding.

How Can My Baby and I Benefit from Kangaroo Care?

  • Touching and cuddling skin-to-skin help you nurture and bond with your baby.
  • You may feel more relaxed and “in touch” with your baby’s needs as you hold and respond to him.
  • Moms who do kangaroo care in the hospital usually make more milk and breastfeed longer at home.
  • The close physical contact with your baby helps your body make infection-fighting factors to protect both you and your baby.
  • When compared to incubator care, babies held skin-to-skin breathe more regularly, have more stable oxygen levels and body temperatures, and have longer periods of deep sleep.
  • When babies are relaxed and stable in kangaroo care, they can use all their energy to grow.
  • Kangaroo care can help calm some of your fears and worries about the intensive care environment.

When Can My Baby and I do Kangaroo Care?

  • When your baby is stable. Most babies are off the ventilator, but some are not.
  • When high-risk IV lines are removed.
  • When your baby’s doctor writes the order for kangaroo care. What do I do?
  • You will need to shower or bathe daily because your baby will be against your skin.
  • Wear a bra and shirt or top that opens in the front, or change into a hospital gown with the opening in the front.
  • Your baby’s nurse will find you a comfortable chair, blankets, and, if you wish, screens for your privacy.  Your baby’s nurse will help you position your baby comfortable upright on your chest.

How Will I Know My Baby Is OK?

  • Your baby will stay on the same heart rate and breathing rate monitor as before. If your baby is on an oxygen monitor, it will also stay on.
  • Your baby’s temperature will be checked – but most babies get warmer, not cooler on your skin!
  • You will feel your baby’s breathing and other movements, learning his likes and dislikes quickly.

How Long May I Do Kangaroo Care?

  • Every baby is different, so your baby’s doctor or nurse may ask you to build up time slowly.
  • Since most babies are MORE stable in kangaroo care, we encourage you to spend as many minutes or hours with you baby in kangaroo care as you are able.