Kangaroo Care: Is There Such Thing As Holding Your Baby Too Much?

kangaroo care skin to skin contact with baby

Have you ever been told that you’re picking your baby up too much? Has a well meaning neighbour or family member pooh-poohed the mother baby attachment and said that you need to put that baby down or you’ll spoil him? Well, science shows that there’s no such thing as holding your baby too much! Let’s talk about the concept of kangaroo care.

kangaroo care skin to skin contact with baby

What is kangaroo care?

The term was first coined in Colombia in the 1970s by neonatologists Edgar Rey and Hector Martinez. Their wards didn’t have enough incubators for all the sick babies. So they took a page from nature and sent the infants home to be cuddled. The mothers were instructed to hold the babies (in nappies but otherwise bare) upright between their bare breasts. Also, to breastfeed whenever possible.

The doctors were surprised to find that their desperate plan actually reduced the babies’ reliance on incubators and decreased the mortality rate from 70% to 30%.

The importance of mother baby attachment

Especially for newborns, skin to skin contact with their mothers has incredibly beneficial effects, even twenty years later. Research shows that not only do these babies have a better bond with their parents, they were significantly healthier, and showing better brain function. They are even earning higher wages!

The way to healthier, happier babies

The first few months of premature infants’ lives are really rough. They’re isolated in an incubator, poked and prodded, with doctors sticking tubes in them all the time. All this stress can make them less responsive to gentle touch. It seems as though they feel their environments as painful and withdraw.

However, premmies who experienced regular gentle touch, whether from parents or hospital caregivers, were more sensitive to touch and showed improved brain development.

Even as little as one hour a day of skin to skin contact with their mothers led to better sleep, better hormonal responses to stress, and better cognitive function – 10 years later. And it isn’t just mum – dads and babies benefit from cuddle time too!

The sacred hours

The first couple of hours after a baby is born are so important for a new baby. Wherever possible, baby needs a warm welcome to the world. And how better than skin to skin with someone who cares for him?

Newborns (assuming they’re not in urgent need of immediate medical care) should spend their first few hours lying skin to skin on their mothers’ chests. Not only is it calming for both mother and baby, it allows the baby’s breastfeeding instincts to kick in. Newborns will actually find the nipple, latch on and start suckling all by themselves if left in peace to follow their instincts.

So the next time someone tells you that you’re ‘spoiling’ your baby, tell them they don’t know what they’re talking about! All the scientific research supports you and you can cuddle your baby as much as you want.

Looking for more articles about motherhood? You can see our tips on feeding your baby on the first year here.


Main image credit: Deposit Photos

Like this? Why not Pin it?

Postpartum Self Care: New Baby? How To Still Take Care Of Yourself

postpartum self care

The first 12 weeks are the toughest, they say. The learning curve was steep. My husband said that in the first week of our son’s life, he had learned more than in the past 10 years. I had to agree. But as we get to the end of those 12 weeks (and I listen to very loud and strange baby sleeping/groaning noises), I am feeling reflective. I want to reflect on the priorities I set out before the baby was born to look after myself, then the baby, then everyone else. Here is what I have observed about postpartum self care.

postpartum self care

There is no doubt that is hard to prioritise yourself when there is a newborn screaming to be fed. For example, this morning I wanted nothing more than to meet my friends and their babies for a swim and a chat. My son? He wanted nothing more than to feed for 1.5 hours and then sleep. That, was not the time for prioritising myself. But as I sat there with him, I planned what my self care would be once he fell asleep: tea and chocolate. It is small but it was enough.

The First 12 weeks of postpartum self care

So here are the top things I’ve learned about postpartum self care during those first 12 weeks.

Small is good

Aim for small. Focus on the small things that have a big impact for you e.g. 10 minutes of yoga while your partner has the baby, 5 minutes to drink a cup of tea with two hands, 5 minutes to have a dip in the pool. If you get more time, great, do more. But if you aim for small things that are likely to happen you don’t set yourself up for unrealistic expectations and resentment.

Housework will get done

Rather than sit with my tea, I was tempted to empty the dishwasher. I didn’t allow myself to do it. The dishwasher will eventually get emptied; this was my only window for tea. Priorities.

Take the toilet breaks when you get them

Feeding nearly constantly means that getting even two minutes to go to the bathroom at the time you need to might be a luxury. If you get a window, use it!

postnatal self care

Prioritise rest

To some people, it is ‘sleep when the baby sleeps’ seems like wishful thinking (and it probably is if you have more than one child). I don’t sleep every time he sleeps. I listen to my body and decide whether I need sleep or something else to nourish me. But I always prioritise rest. Rest can be whatever you find restorative. Before I had a baby, I used to do this by saying, ‘two sessions; not three!’ This meant that if I did something in the morning and afternoon (two sessions), I rested in the evening (3rd session=rest). With a baby, for me, it’s more like ‘one session; not three!’ Find what works for you.

Get prepared

My son likes to feed (a lot!) which can mean hours on end looking at his little face with his eyes closed. He is happy and I enjoy watching him. To a point. Then, I get bored, thirsty, and hungry. I start prepping by putting things within a reaching distance: books, journals, computer, TV remotes, water, and food. It is a godsend.

Accept help

I wrote a whole post about this but I think it is so important that it needs repeating. Yesterday, I asked a stranger to help me get my purse out of my bag to pay for parking. I had a baby on boob, a baby carrier around my waist and a backpack on my back… yeah! Flustered (after nearly 2 hours of a screaming baby), my first reaction was to stop, put everything down, get my purse out, and hope there was $2 in there. In a split second, I thought of my word for the year ‘ask’ and realised there was an alternative. The stranger ended up paying the $2.

So, there you have it. I am amazed to say that postpartum self-care is possible with a newborn. I am not sure I believed it would be. But I think the core strand that runs through all of this is flexibility. I have tried not to compare what I used to do, to now. There is no comparison. I know that eventually I’ll get to go for a massage without worrying about the next feed. But in the meantime, tea, chocolate, and the odd bit of time to write is enough.

So, what can you do to prioritise yourself during pregnancy, and in those first 12 weeks, and beyond?

About the writer: Dr. Amanda McCullough from Not Just Mum

Amanda is a life coach, award-winning scientist, health professional and speaker at Not Just Mum. She coaches intelligent, brave and honest women through the transition from passionate career woman to motherhood and back again. A move to Australia in 2014, her two uteruses and expertise in behavior change and women’s leadership led her to create Not Just Mum where she offers workshops, one-to-one consults and coaching series to support women to maintain their sanity and identity in this challenging and joy-filled time of life.

Find Amanda on her website, on Facebook and on Instagram.

Article images credit: Dr. Amanda McCullough