Skin-to-skin contact, or kangaroo care, is generally something avoided for premmie bubs. But research finds that’s no longer true.
Kangaroo care, (when a newborn baby cuddles bare chest with parents), has been proven in past research to improve breastfeeding rates, normalise temperature, increase cognitive function and assist in bonding and attachment.
The benefits of skin-to-skin contact are widely known and practised in Australian hospitals.
But until now there has been concern about the risks for very premature babies, who have to be taken out of an incubator and are usually attached to all kinds of life-supporting tubes and monitors.
New research from the Royal Women’s Hospital in Melbourne has found that skin-to-skin contact is safe for even the smallest of infants, shares ABC news.
Neonatal paediatrician Sue Jacobs co-authored the study and said the findings were important.
“We know the benefits of skin-to-skin care for bigger babies. We didn’t know about it for these tiny vulnerable babies,” she said.
“So we’re in a bit of a dilemma in that we worry that every single thing we do to them could make them unstable.”
The study monitored the way 40 very pre-term babies on breathing support responded to 90 minutes in the incubator when compared with the same time having skin-to-skin contact with their parents.
It showed that there was little difference in a baby’s blood oxygen levels and profusion in their brain.
It also showed no change of heart rate, breathing rate and temperature.
“So what it tells us — and particularly [for] the nursing staff caring at the bedside — is that it’s OK to put these babies into skin-to-skin care, it’s not going to make them unstable,” Dr Jacobs said.
“Hopefully they will experience the same benefits of skin-to-skin care as bigger babies do.”
Dr Jacobs said the study’s results have already seen changes at the Royal Women’s Hospital.
“It’s given us the confidence in our care and our carers to provide skin-to-skin care earlier after birth, as in the smallest babies in our unit and to practise it for prolonged periods of time on multiple occasions throughout the day.”
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