Kangaroo Care for My Little Miracle
Personal story of providing comforting kangaroo care for a premature baby.
By Krisanne Larimer
Shortly after my daughter, Kaia Michele, was born at 24 weeks gestation (1 lb 12 ozs) she was transported an hour away to a level III nursery. The first time I was able to visit her was the scariest day of my life - the monitors, breathing tube, wires and bili lights made her look even smaller and sicker. Every time I touched her the alarms would sound and a nurse would have to rub her till her heart started again. I felt totally rejected and felt sure she wouldn't survive.
The next day, within 15 minutes, and after three alarms at my touch, the nurse asked if I wanted to hold her. I was petrified! If she had reacted that badly to my touch, what would happen if I held her?
I was finally convinced to take off my shirt and bra, put on a gown and sit down in a comfortable chair. One nurse carried the wires and vent tubing while another placed Kaia on my bare chest, tummy down wearing only a diaper. A few receiving blankets were placed on top of her - which were later removed because she was too warm. Vent tubing and wires were taped to the sleeves of my gown. After the nurses stopped fussing over her she squirmed for a couple minutes and then fell into a deep sleep. No alarms! No brady spells! Just peaceful sleep. She made me feel like a Mom for the first time, and I knew at that moment she was going to live.
There are many proven benefits to Kangaroo Care. In fact, of the several hundred studies done to date, every study has yielded positive results. For the parent, Kangaroo Care promotes earlier bonding, makes the guilt of early delivery more bearable, gives parents a chance to do something for their baby, and increases lactation (better milk flow). For the babies, Kangaroo Care regulates breathing, stabilizes heart rates, regulates the baby's body heat (mom's naturally regulate their body heat depending on their baby's needs), stimulates more rapid weight gain, shortens hospital stay and allows baby longer periods of alertness and sleep.
Kangaroo Care has been seen by some hospitals as a 'risk', 'not necessary' and 'time consuming'. From all I have seen and read, Kangaroo Care is beneficial, not damaging. If the baby is unable to tolerate Kangaroo Care, they can be immediately returned to the warming bed and it can be attempted again at a later date. If the nurses are properly trained and careful, the transfer wouldn't take more than ten minutes. Actually, I encourage hospitals to allow 'parent transport' where the parent leans over the baby's warming bed or isolette, pulls the baby to his/her chest and sits down while the nurses tend to wires and tubes. Within two or three weeks I was able to position all the tubes and wires on my own. She was all mine for the few hours we were together every day.
My ultimate goal is to see all mothers and fathers in the world given the opportunity to Kangaroo their tiny miracles - NO limitations, NO 3 pound rule, NO waiting till they are off breathing machines - every baby! In Germany the doctors and nurses tuck a fussy baby in their shirt every day for rounds. Countries like Sweden and Norway allow full term babies in respiratory distress to be Kangarooed instead of intubated. In most cases, the baby recovered fully within 24 hours.
We need to allow parents to be parents in the NICU - for some reason a lot of hospitals can't let this happen. We should let the parents diaper, feed and hold their babies. Teach the parents how to be parents and let the babies feel loved and wanted.