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Top 4 reasons new moms should act like a kangaroo


Imagine you’ve just spent the better part of 24 hours working your way through a canal so tight that your skull had to unhinge to allow you through. Now imagine before your eyes can adjust, the first thing you experience once you’re through is a slap and a mugging. You’d cry too, right? Well new practices are taking the newborn’s point of view more carefully into consideration and it’s changing the culture of delivery rooms, and perhaps the state as well.

A new standard of care for newborns is sweeping the state of West Virginia. Nurses, obstetricians and pediatricians, and others involved in obstetrical care and policy are taking notes from kangaroos.

  1. Immediate access to nutrition

Among the greatest benefits they’re seeing in states where Kangaroo Care is a new policy is an increase in the numbers of moms breastfeeding their babies.

Breastfeeding benefits for baby include: less sickness and time in hospital; less  diahorrea and vomiting less  gastroenteritis less  colic less childhood diabetes or obesity fewer ear infections fewer respiratory infections fewer allergies less asthma less Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) reduced risk of heart disease later in life Breastfeeding Benefits for mom include: lower risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes lower risk of developing Breast Cancer lower risk of developing Ovarian Cancer lower risk of developing Postpartum Depression loose baby weight quicker

Denise Barbier from the University of Louisville Hospital Center for Women and Infants is traveling WV offering workshops they’ve developed in KY to train trainers (“Birth Kangaroo Care” initiative) on the how-to and benefits-of Kangaroo Care. These workshops are provided by a grant through the WV Department of Health and Human Resources’ Office of Maternal and Child Health. She’s already hosted workshops in Kentucky and says the practice is already changing statistics there:

“When we started our Birth KC initiative, which is putting the baby on the mom’s chest immediately in the delivery room—give them a couple hours to make that transition and they’ll actually take their first breast milk feeding because that is what they are born to do. When we started doing that our breast feeding rates jumped from 45 percent at the time, and it jumped up to 51 percent in the first month. Our current breast feeding initiation rate just as of August this year was 78 percent.”

Barbier says there are many, many accounts of newborns crawling up their mother’s abdomen, finding the breast, and latching on—totally unassisted. Hear a little more of her explanation about the nurse training here:

Denise Barbier talks about Birth Kangaroo Care initiative.

  1. Thermo and Cardiovascular Regulation

Heart rate, breathing and oxygen saturation, blood pressure and temperature all stabilize far faster on mom than when they are separated.
It started in Bogotá, Columbia. Well, kind of.

Denise Barbier tells the story at workshops where two neonatologists hiking in the mountains of Columbia in the early 1980s came across a woman with a tiny, obviously premature infant tucked into her blouse—like a kangaroo. She was the child’s wetnurse. And the child was thriving.

“[The neonatologists] looked at this idea and decided that this could maybe help improve their premature infants’ outcomes. So in their hospital they would have the mothers come in and put the babies next to them, or skin-to-skin, between the breasts and as a result their infant mortality rate decreased dramatically.”

  1. Better sleep (for baby and mom)

Babies who sleep better waste less energy and are quicker to gain weight and thrive.

  1. Mother-Baby bonding

The skin-to-skin contact with the newborn promotes powerful bonding between parent and child. (It should be noted that dads also make good kangaroos.)  West Virginia Perinatal Partership’s outreach education coordinator Shauna Lively Ed.D., R.N., C.L.S., says Kangaroo Care could also help fight other common health disparities in the state: 

“We have high rates of obesity, we have high rates of substance abuse, we have high rates of sudden unexpected infant death—things like this. And I’m really thinking that the Kangaroo Care that we do in the hospitals to initiate mother-baby bonding will go a long way toward helping these issues.”

Schedule for the other workshops:

October 23 - Wheeling Hospital for the staffs from Wheeling Hospital, Ohio Valley Medical Center and Weirton Medical Center;

October 24 - the Holiday Inn and Suites in Bridgeport for the staffs from Davis Memorial Hospital, United Hospital Center, Stonewall Jackson Memorial Hospital, St. Joseph’s Hospital and Grant Memorial Hospital;

November 6 - Cabell Huntington Hospital for the staffs from Cabell Huntington Hospital, Pleasant Valley Hospital, St. Mary’s Medical Center and Thomas Memorial Hospital;

November 7 - Charleston Area Medical Center Women and Children’s Hospital for the staffs from Women’s and Children’s Hospital, Logan Regional Medical Center, Camden Clark Medical Center, Summersville Regional Medical Center and Williamson Memorial Hospital.

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