Kangaroo Care Helps Mom and Baby

Josie, the local nurse midwife, delivered Mary's baby, Sharon. Sharon was Mary's first baby and was born full-term and weighed a healthy 8 lbs, 4 ounces. Josie has a great reputation for "getting any baby to breastfeed," so Mary felt she was in capable hands.

Immediately after birth Sharon was placed on Mary's stomach while the midwife waited a moment before cutting the umbilical cord, thus allowing a final surge of healthy blood to go to Sharon. After cutting the cord Sharon began her second remarkable journey. She started to squirm and wiggle, as if drawn by some magical pulley up toward her mother's breast. While Mary caught her breath, Sharon found her way to her mother's nipple and began to suckle. Mary's first experience as a breastfeeding mother was bathed with the knowledge that her baby also knew that breastfeeding was best and just how to do it. They were off and running as a breastfeeding duo.

Mary spent much time over those first few days with Sharon lying against her chest. This regular skin-to-skin contact (often called Kangaroo Care) has been shown to be a central ingredient for successful breastfeeding. The smell of the mother's milk, the warmth of her breast, the familiar sound of mom's heartbeat comfort a newborn who has just entered a strange new world. Likewise, the feel of the newborn's skin, the smell of her fuzzy head, and the warmth of the baby's breath against her mother's skin sends the breastfeeding hormones surging.

Kangaroo Care really works! Kangaroo Care: causes mothers' oxytocin to increase, enhancing attachment and breastfeeding; causes infants to cry less often and for shorter periods of time; improves mother's and baby's sleep, and helps infants who need the NICU to go home sooner and with better weight gain.

Research recommends skin-to-skin embrace immediately after birth, thirty minutes before the second and third breastfeeding, and six hours a day for the first week of life. This special contact enhances a mother's efforts to breastfeed successfully. Some breastfeeding-friendly women have created clothes for mothers which facilitate the mother staying comfortably skin-to-skin with her baby. (Thanks to preciousimagecreations.com for their creations for new moms and for use of this photo.)

So next time that baby looks up at you with those big eyes that say, "Give me some skin," you'll know she has a good idea!