Kids Health Matters: Kangaroo care for preemies

WEST PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Modern medicine has done wonders to give premature babies a better chance at a healthy life. However, a simple technique called kangaroo care does wonders, too.

Little Evelyn Field arrived at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia 2 months early - and with a heart defect.

Surgeons fixed her heart and nurses care for her round-the-clock. But mom Caroline helps, too, with kangaroo care - where parent and baby are skin-to-skin at least an hour a day.

"Babies are really tuned in to a sense of touch," said Children's Hospital Child Psychologist, Casey Hoffman, Ph.D.

Kangaroo care began in Bogota, Colombia in the 1970s when hospitals noticed that preemies held close by their mothers for long periods not only survived, but thrived. Since then, studies have shown a host of physical benefits.

"It helps them maintain their body temperature, it really helps them establish more regular breathing patterns. It can help their quality of sleep. And it can even help lessen their experience of pain when they have some minor procedures," said Dr. Hoffman.

Babies also feel a sense of security and comfort and parents reap big rewards.

Evelyn's mom, Caroline Field, says it's empowering and really relieved her stress.

"It was weeks before I could hold her because she was so sick. And the first time I held her skin-to-skin, I felt like a real mom!" she said. "When I first started kangaroo care, she couldn't put her head up, now she won't put it down, she just wants to look at me, and all around."

Caroline also spends lots of kangaroo time with Evelyn's twin Keira, who didn't have any birth defects. Although Evelyn hasn't caught up with her sister yet, she's on her way.

Kangaroo or cuddling time isn't just for preemies. Child psychologist Casey Hoffman says full-term babies need it, too, to develop the parent-child trust that's the foundation of their future relationship.

For more information on kangaroo care, CLICK HERE.

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