Women's Health

Kangaroo Care Keeps Mom and Baby Close After Birth, Improves Health Outcomes

The first moments after childbirth may be some of the most emotional in a mother’s life. After nine months of carrying the child, an average of six to 12 hormone-fueled hours of early labor followed by up to eight hours – or more – of active labor and pushing, many mothers’ natural instinct is to hold their baby close.

But traditional obstetric practice has not always catered to moms’ instincts, instead calling for baby to be whisked away to a warmer for prolonged assessment, or swaddled and handed off to an anxious father or grandmother.

A maternal care philosophy called Kangaroo Care, which keeps mother and baby together, skin-to-skin, for those first precious hours after childbirth, is challenging traditional hospital birthing routines.

“Physiologically, there is a lot to be gained by having mom and baby together,” said Dr. Betsy LeRoy, an obstetrician with TriHealth Samaritan Obstetrics and Gynecology. “For the baby, who may be having a little difficulty transitioning into the world, showing respiratory issues and temperature deregulation – by having mom there, soothing and calming that stress response, we’ll see those babies transitioning better.”

LeRoy cited research showing that reuniting mom and baby skin-to-skin at the time of birth produces lower rates of complications, lower rates of NICU admission, higher successful rates of breast-feeding and lower stress hormone responses in both mother and child.

“The way I look at it as an obstetrician is that mom is nature’s warmer,” LeRoy said. “That’s where that baby is meant to be at that point.”

The normal routine of assessments still take place under Kangaroo Care, as well as the initiation of breast-feeding within the first hours after birth. But unlike traditional neonatal care models, the baby never leaves the mother’s chest.

Despite the emphasis on immediate bonding time between mother and child, LeRoy pointed out that Kangaroo Care isn’t about devaluing the role of support persons, or preventing them from being involved in the birthing process. It just means that mom’s partner, sibling or parent will have to wait an extra hour or two before holding the newest member of the family.

LeRoy says that she’s been employing Kangaroo Care practices for years, but TriHealth’s widespread adoption of the model will set the health care system ahead of the curve in the local market.

“TriHealth is leading the way in innovations that make the childbirth experience more pleasant for everyone involved and healthier for everyone in the end,” LeRoy said.

Tags Women's Health

Last Updated: May 18, 2016