While it might sound like an outback experiment in mothering, kangaroo mother care can be defined as using regular skin to skin contact between a mom and her child. Using this strategy helps to mimic the warm and swathed feeling of the womb, comforting your new baby. This technique is a natural step in the breastfeeding process and can be very beneficial for both mom and child.
Renewed Focus on Breastfeeding
There is a pendulum swing again in the conversation about which type of feeding is best for your baby. For hundreds of years the mainstay option was breastfeeding. Then along came the ability of and interest in women spending time away from home, working, socializing, and being active in their communities while still being moms. In order to accomplish these other goals, moms turned to formula to supplement or replace breastfeeding.
Recently hospitals have been taking second looks at their roles in encouraging or discouraging breastfeeding, the method that is still recommended by pediatricians to be the most complete nutrition for babies. For decades hospitals in the United States have been sending home diaper bags with new moms, provided by formula producing companies, complete with starter formula kits for new moms. These same hospitals are now moving to more neutral ground, supplying moms with general information about newborn care. Hospitals are also encouraging skin to skin contact, or kangaroo care. After my own children were born our hospital staff encouraged kangaroo care to help regulate their tiny bodies’ temperature levels and promote breastfeeding.
Supportive Breastfeeding Strategies
As the healthcare industry begins to recognize that breastfeeding is possible with supportive strategies, even for busy moms who work outside the homes, it is important to keep in mind the basics that help mothers find success in breastfeeding, especially through kangaroo mother care. Some proponents of kangaroo mother care recommend almost continuous skin to skin contact, allowing for a diaper and hat for the newborn, and using a swaddle wrap to hug the baby to your chest. Others who use or recommend this method feel that it is more important to implement the strategy of regular, but not necessarily constant, skin to skin contact.
As soon as babies are born it is important for them to have skin to skin contact with their mothers. This helps regulate the baby’s body temperature and soothes her after the birth process. Fathers can also participate in this practice, although newborns are sometimes more sensitive to their mothers’ sounds and scents. This close contact is the foundation of the kangaroo mother care technique.
Whether the birth occurs at home, in a hospital, or a regional birthing center, keeping babies close to their mothers will help facilitate the kangaroo mother care approach. Mothers in close proximity to their infants will be more likely to quickly learn the subtle signals their newborns are making and be able to respond, implementing the kangaroo care style of interaction.
Sometimes new mothers find it challenging or awkward to begin breastfeeding. It is important for moms to relax and remain calm during the process. Breastfeeding rarely happens like in the movies – in one swift move the mother miraculously nurses her child for the first time in one flawless motion. The reality is that this is new for both of you and it will take time to figure out what works best.
Even if you are unsure about whether or not you will exclusively breastfeed or formula feed, taking time for skin to skin contact will help create that special connection between you and your child. It may even lead you to nurse when you see the reaction from your newborn.
You and your baby will go through phases of success and frustration in breastfeeding. Don’t give up! Try using kangaroo mother care where you repeatedly place your child on your chest, allowing her to root around.
- Talk with a lactation consultant at your local hospital.
- Contact a La Leche League consultant to share your concerns and work on a new strategy.
- Talk with your child’s pediatrician and form a plan together.
Breastfeeding has numerous benefits for moms and babies. Getting to the point where it is a relaxed and natural feeding method is not always easy, but patience and persistence are required to get there. The kangaroo mother care approach is just one more way to connect with your baby, forming a close bond that supports breastfeeding and improved health for both of you.