15/12/2009 17:24 GMT | Updated 22/05/2015 10:12 BST

K: What Is Kangaroo Care?

Kangaroo care is a system of caring for newborns, in particular low birth weight or premature babies. It was invented in Columbia in 1978 where incubators were in short supply.

The baby is given direct skin-to-skin contact with the mother or father by being placed onto his or her chest vertically – tummy to tummy - wearing just a nappy.

The parent can then simply fasten his or her shirt around the baby and this provides warmth and allows for bonding to occur.

Kangaroo care can begin when the baby is still attached to wires or tubes, and requires no special equipment – only perhaps a pillow.

This position is as safe for the baby as being in an incubator.

In developing countries the baby remains in this position for as long as possible per day. In developed countries skin-to-skin contact is usually recommended for a minimum of two hours per day.

Kangaroo care has many benefits. These include -


  • Have a faster growth rate
  • Tend to have an earlier discharge from hospital
  • Have more stable heart rates
  • Have more restful sleep
  • Have lower rates of lower respiratory tract disease


  • Feel more confident
  • Are twice as likely to breastfeed successfully, and are likely to breastfeed for longer
  • Are less likely to suffer depression

Kangaroo care can continue after the baby has left hospital, and can also be used on a healthy full term baby.

With larger babies once at home, a sling is an invaluable buy for practising kangaroo care. It allows skin-to-skin contact while the parent gets on with other activities.

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