April 22, 2004 -- Giving newborn infants plenty of skin-to-skin contact with their mothers shortly after birth may ease the stressful transition from womb to world. A new study shows that such "kangaroo care" measures may provide immediate and potentially lasting health benefits for the baby.
Previous studies have shown that kangaroo care practices can improve physical, mental, and emotional well-being among preterm infants, but this is among the first studies to examine the effects of kangaroo care on full-term infants.
The study, published in the April issue of Pediatrics, showed that infants who had an hour of skin-to-skin contact with their mothers immediately after birth slept longer and more quietly and exhibited less stressful movements hours later in the nursery.
Kangaroo Care Eases Newborn Transition
Researchers say the transition from the womb to the real world is one of the most hazardous and stressful events in the human life cycle. Therefore, interventions that can help a newborn feel more secure and facilitate adaptation to their new surroundings would be useful.
In this study, researchers compared the effects of one hour of skin-to-skin contact initiated within 15-20 minutes after birth versus a standard care in 47 healthy mother-infant pairs. Infants and mothers were randomly assigned to the kangaroo care or control group. Shortly after birth all the infants were placed on their mother's chest for five to 10 minutes while the umbilical cord was cut. The infants were later dried and dressed. The control infants were taken back to the nursery while the infants in the kangaroo care group were taken back to their mother. The infants were brought to the hospital's nursery 75-80 (the kangaroo group) and 15-20 (control infants) minutes after birth, respectively.
Four hours after birth, researchers observed the infants for an hour and found that those who received kangaroo care slept longer, were mostly in a quiet sleep state, and were in positions indicating less stress and startle.
"The results of this study show [kangaroo care] may be beneficial for term infants after delivery," write researcher Sari Goldstein Ferber, PhD, of the University of Haifa, Israel, and colleagues. "As noted by others, even in preterm infants, the skin-to-skin effect persisted after contact itself was terminated and was apparent four hours later."
"Medical and nursing staff may be well advised to provide this kind of care shortly after birth," conclude the researchers. They say future studies should look at the issue of continuing kangaroo care during the first few weeks of life and the possible effects on mother-infant interaction, infant temperament, and attention-related skills during early life.