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Can I Hold My Baby? 

Nothing is more heart wrenching than standing by an isolette, watching as your baby cries, knowing that your touch could soothe her.  Before Cuddle Care was encouraged, many mothers felt this pain because it was thought that the isolette was the best place for babies who needed special care.  Now, we know that cuddling with our newborns can have amazing benefits, including reducing pain and stress.

Cuddle Care, or Kangaroo Mother Care, as it is often called, began in Bogota, Columbia in 1978 to compensate for the lack of staff and equipment to care for premature and small infants.  Dr. Edgar Rey, a pediatrician who invented kangarooing, found that mothers could use their bodies to warm premature infants. Since then, further study has been done on kangarooing and has found other amazing benefits.

Kangaroo Care calls for the baby to be rested in an upright position, skin to skin, between the mother’s breasts, and covered with a blanket.  The St. Louis Fetal Care Institute and the Dana Brown Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at SSM Cardinal Glennon Children’s Medical Center encourage cuddling for babies who are not in an acute state of illness, or require special care or equipment. We have seen so many benefits of cuddling, including less anxiety for our moms and quicker recovery for our kids.

We encourage moms, dads and even grandparents to do cuddle time with their babies. At first it may seem a little scary to take your little one in your arms. Our nurses will you show how you can take your warm hands and gently place them under your baby’s head and feet, then place the baby gently against your skin, much like a kangaroo would do.  A blanket is provided for you to wrap around you and the baby for warmth.  Then, the cuddle session begins.

Benefits of cuddling include:

  • Enhancing the critical period of bonding during breastfeeding
  • Improved sleep
  • Weight gain
  • Ability for the mother’s body to regulate the baby’s temperature to the tenth of a degree

Evidence shows that human contact not only comes naturally to a mother wanting to provide for her baby, it is what the baby needs to get stronger actually reducing pain and stress.  Even the youngest of preemies, some less than 30 weeks, are found to recover from heel sticks while being cuddled.

The science and history of Kangarooing can seem intuitive to some and skeptical to others. Nevertheless, there are several studies to support kangarooing and the positive impact of it is use.  The benefits are numerous and while it begins the bonding process, it also has been cited to aid in brain development. Preemies who have been cuddled meet social and cognitive goals closer to their actual, rather than adjusted age.

Science aside, for most parents who have cuddled their babies, it is the art of caring, the warmth of the soul, the rhythm of the heart, and the will to heal that may be the medicine of healing in Cuddle Care.  

Related Articles:

Study on Pain & Stress in babies who are cuddled - Celeste Johnson D. Ed RN McGill University School of Nursing

Origination of Kangaroo Cuddling & Benefits

Kangaroo Mother Care and the Bonding Hypothesis -  PEDIATRICS Vol. 102 No. 2 August 1998

Early relationship environments:  Physiology of skin-to-skin for parents and their preterm infants   

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