Southeast WI Archive
  • Southeast Wisconsin
  • March 2015
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Kangaroo care — Skin-to-skin contact between mother and baby

Kangaroo care is the practice, immediately after birth, of holding your baby, skin to skin, between your breasts. The father may also participate by holding the baby on his chest, skin to skin.

How did kangaroo care originate?

Kangaroo care began by accident out of necessity in 1979 in Bogotá, Columbia due to a shortage of isolettes and staff. Doctors hoped that immediate skin to skin contact between mother and baby would provide the warmth and stimulation needed for these newborns to survive. The results were so positive and encouraging that the “kangaroo” method was introduced into many hospitals in Western Europe during the 1980s. The practice of kangaroo care came to the United States around 1990.

The practice of kangaroo care

Immediately following the birth, the baby is brought to the mother’s chest and placed there with skin-to-skin contact. The baby is assessed without being removed or separated from its mother. The baby can be dried to the degree the mother desires. Together they are covered with a blanket. As long as the baby is stable, any further testing, assessments or procedures, including the baby’s first bath, will take place once the mother and baby have spent this monumental time together.

Kangaroo care is recommended for at least one hour. During this time, most babies will, with little help, find their mother’s breast and begin feeding. In the weeks and months to follow, this practice of skin-to-skin contact is encouraged as much as possible. It helps to build trust and to strengthen the emotional bond between parents and baby. Fathers are also encouraged to enjoy the benefits.

Why is kangaroo care important?

Continued research indicates there are several benefits for the baby if skin-to-skin contact begins as soon as the baby is born. The transition from uterine life to the world is more gentle and soothing for the baby. Babies who have been placed skin to skin with their mothers cry less, are more alert and establish breastfeeding better. Skin-to-skin contact gives the baby an analgesic effect that may decrease discomfort experienced during the birth process. The release of oxytocin creates a feeling of connection.

Research has shown that mothers and babies are in thermal harmony during kangaroo care. The baby’s body temperature will regulate in response to the warmth from the mother. This adjustment keeps the baby’s temperature appropriately stable.

During kangaroo care you will be able to feel your baby’s movements and your baby will be able to hear your heartbeat, a familiar sound, and benefit from your touch. This touch encourages bonding between mothers and babies.

Research has shown that kangaroo care is not only safe, but it actually enhances babies’ overall growth and development. Mothers feel more confident and relaxed about taking care of their babies. Breastfeeding mothers usually notice an increase in milk production. Infants become instinctually familiar with the mother’s breast which promotes successful breastfeeding and healthy growth and weight gain.

Practicing kangaroo care will provide you and your baby the instinctual connection of touch and benefits that will last forever.

“Skin-to-Skin Contact: Giving Birth Back to Mothers and Babies” Gretchen A. Dabrowski, R.N., BSN. Nursing for Women’s Health. February/March 2007, Volume 11, Issue 1.

“Kangaroo Care at Birth for Full-Term Infants: A Pilot Study.” Mary W. Walters, M.S., R.N., et al. The American Journal of Maternal/Child Nursing. December 2007.



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Kamala McCormick

Kamala McCormick is a birth doula. She is a certified pregnancy and postpartum fitness educator and Dancing For Birth instructor. Kamala holds certified credentials through DONA International, International Childbirth Education Association and Dancing For Birth.

She is the owner of Blossoms Pregnancy Boutique and Wellness Center in Fond du Lac. She instructs, empowers and assists women during their pregnancy and motherhood journeys. Kamala serves clients throughout the metro-Milwaukee and Fox Valley regions. To learn more about Kamala’s practice, visit, or contact her at 920-979-8336 or email [email protected]


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