17 May Make like a kangaroo for best baby care
Wednesday, 17 May 2023 The most nurturing space for a newborn in the early weeks of life as they adapt to the world outside of the womb, is snuggled against their parent’s chest, skin to skin, where they can hear your heartbeat, feel your natural body warmth and be as close as possible to the people who gave them life.
Kangaroo care, so named because it mimics the close contact of a mother kangaroo carrying her baby in a pouch close to her body, is highly beneficial for all parents and babies in appropriate circumstances and particularly for premature or low birthweight babies, according to Verena Bolton, a neonatal nurse and national coordinator of Netcare Ncelisa human milk banks.
“Skin to skin care is actively encouraged in our maternity and neonatal units in support of the World Health Organization’s Mother Baby Friendly Initiative, and as part of Netcare’s approach to family centered care.
“In addition to its emotional and bonding benefits, kangaroo care encourages successful breastfeeding, which helps to ensure a healthy digestive tract and immune system, as well as aiding in the development of a normal skin microbiome for the baby.
“It also assists with better body temperature regulation for infants and can result in improved cardiac and respiratory function with more stable heart rates and blood pressure, more regular breathing and better oxygen saturation levels for babies,” Bolton explains.
According to Sr Amori Jordaan, a specialist midwife and maternity unit manager at Netcare Linkwood Hospital, while kangaroo care has numerous benefits for mother and baby, skin to skin contact is of great value when carried out by fathers as well.
“Spending time so close together contributes enormously to the bonding experience for fathers, who can also feel the emotional wellbeing of this special snuggle time with their new little one from early on. Whenever there is a moment when the mother is not able to kangaroo that is a golden opportunity for the father to step in.
“The benefits of skin to skin care do not end with a baby’s parents either. If there is anyone else in the family who is helping to look after your newborn they can also spend time giving baby a natural sense of security in this way. We have a special name for these close carers – cuddlers.”
On 15 May, Netcare Linkwood Hospital along with other Netcare facilities across the country, celebrated International Kangaroo Care Awareness Day in recognition of this important bonding practice.
“We held a 24-hour Kangaroo-a-thon for mothers currently admitted or with babies still admitted in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), and families recently discharged, to highlight the benefits of skin to skin care and encourage parents to kangaroo with their little one for as long as possible.
Prizes are being given to parents and babies who achieved the most minutes in hospital and at home during the Kangaroo-a-thon, with parents who participated from home having checked in via their social media platforms to log their hours,” Jordaan says.
The facility’s Kangaroo-a-thon was preceded by a brunch and an educational talk on kangaroo care, including how to position yourself and your baby properly and other relevant information.
The hospital’s maternity and NICU initiatives around International Kangaroo Care Awareness Day began a few days earlier, with all the unit nurses reaffirming their commitment to kangaroo care when they came together to say the Nurses Pledge on International Nurses Day on Friday 12 May.
According to Bolton, Netcare is strongly encouraging a co-caring relationship between parents and healthcare professionals in Netcare NICUs, where babies are often undergoing intensive therapies and parents have limited access.
“There are countless benefits in making parents active members of the healthcare team, contributing to the wellbeing and development of their baby to ensure better overall neurodevelopmental outcomes.
“Kangaroo care is an inclusive practice that enhances the role of parents as co-carers and empowers them in taking care of their baby, in the hospital and when the time comes to take them home. This level of connection and continuity is fundamental to the family centred care that Netcare provides.
“We wish to thank all the families, teams and doctors who participated in our kangaroo care initiatives across our hospitals this week as well as the many companies who generously sponsored prizes, including appropriate skin care products by Seba Med from Transpharma, baby wraps to optimise kangaroo care from BabySense and a selection of skin care products from BioneRenew, among others. Your contributions were greatly appreciated,” she concluded.