Kangaroo Care: A Bonding Experience With Baby

Maureen Robb's picture
By Maureen Robb on January 25, 2017

When Amy Cundiff gave birth to her son at Carilion Roanoke Memorial Hospital, the staff immediately placed him on her chest. Testing and weighing could wait until mother and child bonded.

“It felt like exactly what should be happening—a natural progression,” Cundiff said. “Crosby cried at first, but when they put him on me, he became very peaceful. He had his eyes open wide, just looking at me.”  

Within 90 minutes, Cundiff’s son was nursing. The first-time mother was surprised at how positive and stress-free the experience was.

“It was amazing to see his instincts in action,” Cundiff, of Roanoke, said. “Crosby was able to manipulate his body across my chest and begin nursing. He had a lot of head control.” 

Carilion has been administering the practice of placing newborns on their mother’s bare chest immediately after delivery for the last several years. The technique, called kangaroo care, is an evidence-based practice of skin-to-skin contact between mothers and infants that promotes breastfeeding and bonding.

The first hour or so after birth is a special time of bonding for mothers and babies, said Donna Sams, R.N., senior director of OB/GYN Quality Assurance at Carilion Roanoke Memorial Hospital.

“In this ‘golden hour’ after birth, we recommend mothers hold their newborns skin-to-skin without interruption,” Sams said. “We have designated quiet times in the unit to allow new moms dedicated, kangaroo-care times to bond with their babies and become more comfortable with breastfeeding.”

Kangaroo care also provides a number of other benefits for baby:

  • Stabilizes blood sugar and vital signs
  • Helps maintain body temperature
  • Makes breastfeeding more successful when implemented immediately after birth
  • Improves sleep
  • Enhances weight gain

The special bond from kangaroo care also allows parents to become more sensitive to their newborn’s cues, and babies cry less when they’re lying on the mom, hearing her voice and heartbeat. The practice is also a wonderful way for dad to bond with baby as well.

Named for its similarity to the way marsupials carry their young, the program was initially developed to care for pre-term infants in areas with no incubators. Now modern medical facilities are adopting the practice for all babies due to its benefits.

Carilion Roanoke Memorial Hospital has the largest maternity center in the region, delivering more than 4,000 babies each year, and kangaroo care is one of several initiatives Carilion uses to enhance the health of mothers and infants.

 Orginally published in Carilion Clinic Living magazine, by Su Clauson-Wicker.