Family Health

Kangaroo Care: The Benefits of Safe Skin-to-Skin Snuggles

Published: Dec. 13, 2021

If you’ve had a baby or are expecting, you’ve likely heard about the importance of skin-to-skin care, which is often referred to as kangaroo care.

It’s a concept that was developed in the 1970s and was thought to promote bonding and breastfeeding by holding Baby skin-to-skin against your bare chest. Experts agree that the benefits don’t stop there – that is, if it’s done safely.

Skin-to-Skin Basics

Holding such a tiny human while reclining shirtless can feel awkward and overwhelming at first – especially if you’re new to the parenthood club. But with a few simple precautions, your baby will feel right at home, and you’ll have confidence knowing they’re safe and comfortable.

First things first: Dads, take your shirts off and get comfy. Moms, that goes for you, too. Ditch the nursing bra and let Baby know: Whether it’s skin-so-soft snuggles or liquid gold they’re ordering, everything’s on the table. When it comes to Baby’s attire, only a diaper is preferred while you’re sitting semi-reclined.

In order to ensure the safest skin-to-skin experience possible, make sure that Baby’s:

  • Face can be seen
  • Mouth and nose aren’t covered
  • Head is turned to one side
  • Nose is slightly tilted upward
  • Neck is straight – not flexed or bent
  • Shoulders and chest are flat against Mom or Dad
  • Legs are flexed
  • Back is covered with a blanket

If you begin to feel tired and want to sleep, it’s extremely important that you lay Baby down in a bassinet or crib – or hand them off to another support person who is awake and alert.

Skin-to-Skin Benefits

Benefits for Baby

Most babies love their kangaroo care time – even if they can’t tell you so. Watch and listen for cues, though, to ensure your little “joey” really is getting the most out of their snuggle session. If their breathing seems labored, color seems off or temperature feels too warm or cold, readjust and respond immediately.

When done properly, holding Baby skin-to-skin can:

  • Accelerate brain development
  • Calm and soothe
  • Help regulate heart rate, breathing and body temperature
  • Improve sleep quality
  • Promote weight gain
  • Stimulate digestion
  • Strengthen immunity
Benefits for Mom and Dad

It ain’t all about you, Baby! Mom and Dad benefit from skin-to-skin care, too.

Both parents experience elevated levels of oxytocin – the “feel-good” hormone – when holding baby close. This helps Dad become naturally more nurturing and affectionate and, in turn, better at bonding with Baby.

Mom tends to reap a longer list of benefits, which may include:

  • A more positive breastfeeding experience
  • Improved milk production
  • A lower risk of postpartum depression
  • Less postpartum bleeding

A Note to First-Timers

Forget the dishes, laundry or DIY projects around the house. Instead, use the steps above to keep Baby’s safety a priority while you take a break, relax and soak up all the newborn snuggles. If kangaroo care doesn’t feel natural at first, you are not alone. Hang in there and don’t give up! It can take a little practice, but it’s 100% worth it.

The benefits of skin-to-skin care can be achieved right after delivery, while in the hospital and long after you discharge from the hospital. Have confidence knowing that any time is the right time to comfort, soothe and bond with your baby in this incredibly intimate way.

More Resources

About the Author

Ashley Denker, MSN, RNC-MNN, IBCLC is a clinical nurse educator in the Methodist Women’s Hospital Outreach program. She earned both her Bachelor and Master of Science in nursing from Nebraska Methodist College.

Denker’s interest in maternal newborn nursing began in nursing school and has only grown.

“I loved the maternal newborn clinical and from that point on dreamed of working with mother and baby,” she said. “I love caring for families during the postpartum period in the hospital. I have three daughters of my own and experienced firsthand the impact nurses make during that time, not just on mothers but on the entire family.”

She said obtaining her maternal newborn nursing certification was the catalyst for her to pursue her master’s.

“I have a love for education, both in expanding my own education and in teaching others,” Denker said. “In the Outreach program, I have the privilege of sharing my passion for maternal newborn nursing with my fellow coworkers and nurses from surrounding hospitals.”

In her free time, Denker enjoys taking on DIY projects around her home. She and her husband were featured on the DIY Network show “House Crashers,” where they remodeled their basement in three days. In addition to tackling home improvements, they stay busy with their children and crazy Australian shepherd.

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Ashley Denker