Magic of parents’ touch: How Kangaroo Mother and Father Care are essential during a premature baby’s stay in NICU

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The neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) is a critical space where premature babies, or preemies, receive specialised medical care to support their growth and development but amid the advanced medical interventions, two simple yet incredibly powerful practices have been recognised for their positive impact on preemie infants – Kangaroo Mother Care (KMC) and Kangaroo Father Care (KFC). These practices involve skin-to-skin contact between parents and their preemies, promoting emotional bonding and optimal development.

Magic of parents’ touch: How Kangaroo Mother and Father Care are essential during a premature baby’s stay in NICU (Photo by Twitter/RotundaHospital)

Ahead of World Prematurity Day this November 17, we delve into the magic of a parent’s touch through KMC and KFC and how they are essential for preemies’ NICU stay.

Understanding Kangaroo Mother Care (KMC) and Kangaroo Father Care (KFC)

In an interview with HT Lifestyle, Dr Prashant Moralwar, Consultant Pediatrician at Motherhood Hospital in Kharghar, explained, “Kangaroo Mother Care (KMC) is a practice where the mother holds her preemie against her bare chest, creating skin-to-skin contact. KMC is renowned for its numerous benefits, including regulating the baby’s body temperature, promoting breastfeeding, reducing stress and pain perception and fostering a strong emotional bond between the mother and child. KMC is often introduced shortly after birth and can continue until the preemie is stable and ready for more extended periods of time outside an incubator.”

Next, he revealed, “Kangaroo Father Care (KFC) is a similar practice that encourages fathers to engage in skin-to-skin contact with their preemies. It extends the benefits of KMC to fathers and other primary caregivers. KFC is increasingly recognised for its vital role in providing emotional support and involvement for fathers during their child’s NICU stay.”

Talking about the benefits of KMC and KFC in the NICU, he elaborated –

1. Temperature Regulation: One of the critical benefits of KMC is its ability to help regulate a preemie’s body temperature. The parent’s body provides warmth and comfort, reducing the risk of hypothermia and helping the baby thrive.

2. Improved Sleep Patterns: KMC and KFC have been shown to improve the baby’s sleep patterns, helping them rest more soundly and develop better.

3. Enhanced Breastfeeding: These practices promote breastfeeding by enabling direct skin-to-skin contact between the baby and mother. The baby is more likely to latch onto the breast and establish a successful breastfeeding routine.

4. Emotional Bonding: The physical closeness and emotional connection formed through KMC and KFC have a lasting impact on the parent-preemie relationship. This bonding can continue beyond the NICU, fostering a secure attachment.

5. Reduced Stress: For both preemies and parents, the stress levels are significantly reduced during skin-to-skin contact. This has a positive effect on the baby’s neurological development and overall well-being.

6. Enhanced Growth and Development: Preemies who experience KMC and KFC tend to gain weight more effectively, reach developmental milestones sooner, and have a reduced risk of complications associated with prematurity.

Implementing KMC and KFC

While KMC and KFC are considered essential for the well-being of preemies in the NICU, it’s crucial to work closely with the NICU staff to ensure a safe and comfortable experience. Dr Prashant Moralwar highlighted some essential steps for implementing KMC and KFC –

1. Consult NICU Staff: Seek guidance from NICU staff on when and how to start KMC or KFC, as each preemie’s needs are unique.

2. Prepare for Skin-to-Skin Contact: Dress appropriately for skin-to-skin contact to ensure the baby’s comfort and safety.

3. Be Patient: Understand that preemies may have various medical devices and monitoring equipment that need to be accommodated during KMC and KFC.

4. Communicate: Keep open lines of communication with the healthcare team to address any concerns or questions.

He concluded, “The magic of a parent’s touch through Kangaroo Mother Care (KMC) and Kangaroo Father Care (KFC) is indispensable during a preemie’s stay in the NICU. These practices offer emotional bonding, support optimal development, and improve overall well-being for both the child and parents. As healthcare professionals continue to emphasize the importance of KMC and KFC, they empower parents to play a more active and essential role in their preemie’s NICU journey, fostering stronger parent-preemie connections and better outcomes for these tiny fighters.”

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