Kangaroo Care

During the practice of kangaroo care, a premature infant dressed in only a diaper is placed against a parent’s bare chest. The infant is then covered with a blanket.

Stanford neonatologists recommend kangaroo care for newborns, as well as critically ill infants staying in the NICU at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford. The skin-on-skin contact during kangaroo care triggers the release of oxytocin in mothers and fathers, and research shows the method helps improve a premature infant’s health and well-being.

Kangaroo care NICU practices at Packard Children’s

Parents of critically ill preemies are encouraged to practice kangaroo care as soon as infants have achieved medical stability, and are able to tolerate the transfer from the incubator. This may occur as early as the first day of life for more stable or mature infants. The care team at Packard Children’s has established guidelines to help evaluate an infant for kangaroo care readiness.

How long should you do kangaroo care?

Once infants are ready, Stanford experts recommend that kangaroo care take place at least once per day for 1-3 hours. The newly renovated small baby unit called the Nest, which will be opening soon, will have luxurious reclining chairs at each bedside to support kangaroo care in the most comfortable way.

Kangaroo care benefits for preemies

The benefits of kangaroo care for premature infants are many, and help with improvements in the following:

  • Breathing and heart rate
  • Weight gain
  • Infection rates
  • Comfort and pain control
  • Low blood sugar
  • Brain development
  • Mortality rates

Benefits of kangaroo care for parents

The practice of kangaroo care also holds the following benefits for parents and mothers in particular:

  • Improved parenting confidence
  • Reduced stress
  • Reduced maternal depression
  • Improved rates of breast feeding

Kangaroo care and breast feeding

Mothers produce more milk when pumping just after a kangaroo care session. Having an infant on the mother’s skin and near breast, smelling milk, triggers rooting from the infant. This also increases maternal triggers for milk production.

Kangaroo Care Patient Stories