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Skin-to-skin (kangaroo) care for babies in the Neonatal Critical Care Unit

Skin-to-skin (kangaroo) care means placing your baby directly onto bare skin between your breasts or on their father's chest while keeping them warm. In the Neonatal Critical Care Unit, we encourage parents and even siblings to participate in skin-to-skin care with their babies. Siblings may also participate in skin-to-skin care (if appropriate) with parent consent and support.

There are many benefits of skin-to-skin care for you and your baby and these include:

  • enhanced bonding between baby and parents
  • helping to conserve your baby's energy
  • stabilising your baby's heart rate and breathing
  • stabilising your baby's temperature
  • increasing your baby's tolerance to noise and stress
  • increased milk supply
  • earlier and more successful breastfeeding
  • encouraging non-nutritive sucking
  • a daily vaccination against infections—mothers who skin-to-skin care with their babies produce antibodies in their milk that are specific to the hospital environment
  • helping with your baby's brain development
  • earlier discharge from hospital
  • making both babies and parents happy.

Suitable clothing that will allow easy access for skin-to-skin care may include the following:

  • A button-up style shirt.
  • A shirt with a low neckline made of soft stretchy fabric.
  • A hospital gown.
  • You will need to remove your bra just prior to skin-to-skin care—this allows your baby to have direct contact with your skin.

Kangaroo Mother Care

All babies who are stable even if they are receiving assistance with their breathing, with either a tube or nasal prongs, can have skin-to-skin care. Let your baby's nurse know that you are available for a cuddle whenever your baby's condition allows and together you can plan a suitable time.

If your baby is ready for skin-to-skin care, it is important that you do not miss this special opportunity. If your breasts are full and you have time, you may wish to express. You may also choose to go to the bathroom prior to cuddling your baby.

When you and your baby are ready your nurse will assist you both into a comfortable and safe position on a recliner chair within the nursery. Your baby needs to be kept warm so you can either tuck your baby under your shirt or cover your baby with your hospital gown and a warm blanket. Cuddling your baby in this way for a minimum of one hour duration or longer is ideal as long as your baby remains stable and you are comfortable. You may also like to look at your baby's face using a hand held mirror.

During skin-to-skin care:

  • your baby should be placed between your breasts or on their father's chest, in an upright position and then covered to keep them warm
  • your baby should be dressed in a nappy only
  • your baby should have their head turned to one side in a slightly upturned position—this assists with your baby's breathing and allows you to have eye contact with your baby
  • your baby's arms and legs should be flexed
  • your baby's abdomen should be at the level of your upper abdomen
  • your baby's nurse will teach you how to recognise any changes in your baby's behaviour or condition.

Some babies are too sick or unstable to have skin-to-skin care – your baby's nurse will explain why if this is the situation for your baby but you are encouraged to participate in other aspects of caring for your baby, such as changing their nappy or cleaning their face, taking their temperature or changing their sheets. Your nurse can also show you how to cuddle your baby with facilitated tucking or containment by placing your hands gently over your baby.

Skin-to-skin care and breastfeeding

Kangaroo Mother Care 2

During skin-to-skin care you may observe your baby showing feeding cues i.e. making sucking movements with their mouth, turning their head to one side or the other, opening their mouth (rooting) and looking for something to suck on. These cues may occur from when your baby is 30 weeks corrected gestational age. If you observe this behaviour during skin-to-skin care, ask your nurse to assist you to position your baby at the breast. Your baby may attempt to self-latch, or lick or sniff the nipple. These are all encouraging signs of early feeding behaviours.


Neonatal Critical Care Unit
Level 6
Mater Mothers' Hospital
Raymond Terrace, South Brisbane Qld 4101
Telephone: 07 3163 8111
Fax: 07 3163 3980
Website: www.matermothers.org.au

Mater acknowledges consumer consultation in the development of this patient information.
Mater Doc Num: PI-CLN-430086
Last modified 14/8/2017.
Consumers were consulted in the development of this patient information.
Last consumer engagement date: 31/7/2017
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