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Kangaroo Hold

By Meg Marinis, Director of Research | Nov 5th, 2009
Okay. I know you're asking this...

Did a topless Alex Karev holding that baby REALLY help improve that preemie's vitals?? Is that really a thing???

Yep. It is.

In Episode 608, Invest In Love, Alex picks up the preemie baby to hold her to try and provide her some comfort as her health deteriorates. While her mother still remains too unstable to make it to the NICU, Alex takes the duty upon himself. But when Bailey catches sight of him, she tells Alex that he has the baby in "Kangaroo Hold," and the baby's vitals... seem to be stabilizing...

What exactly is a "Kangaroo Hold"?

The Kangaroo Hold is the process of strapping a baby to the mother's chest (or father's), so a baby may experience skin-to-skin contact and warmth. The baby should be naked, except for his diaper and something to cover his back (usually the parent's clothing or a folded receiving blanket), with oxygen as needed. Since the Kangaroo practice is a physical commitment from the parent, healthcare workers should be available around the clock for support.

Developed initially in Columbia in the seventies, the holding method came to life as an alternative to incubator care for babies who required intensive monitoring—such as premature and low birth weight infants. Columbia also had a tragic mortality rate of 70% due to infection, respiratory problems, lack of attention from a parent, and not enough resources or funding. However, once the Kangaroo Hold technique began to be implemented, that mortality rate quickly dropped.

Which babies need Kangaroo care?

- High-needs infants.
- Intrauterine growth retardation.
- Premature infants.
- Infants with low muscle tone.
- Infants who have difficulty gaining weight.

What are the benefits of the Kangaroo Hold for the baby?

- Heart rate stabilizes.
- Breathing starts to regulate (less apneic episodes).
- Better oxygen saturation levels.
- More rapid weight gain.
- More rapid brain development.
- Decreased crying.
- Better sleeping periods.
- Longer periods of alertness.
- More successful breastfeeding.
- Earlier hospital discharge.

The technique also benefits the parents.

- Parents feel more closure about having their baby in the NICU.
- They feel close to their babies (better bonding).
- Parents feel as if they can take care of their infants.
- Parents feel as if the hospital has provided good care for their baby.
- They feel more in control.

How does it work?

In the last week of pregnancy, babies sleep twenty to twenty-two hours a day in the mother's womb. Once they have been delivered and if transported to the NICU, the babies only sleep about two to three hours a day, not even continuously. When the mother or father puts the baby into a Kangaroo Hold, the baby falls asleep almost instantaneously; therefore, the baby conserves energy, using calories toward growth instead.

Also, doctors have studied the brain waves of infants in the Kangaroo Hold and found signs of rapid development. They discovered that the number of "alpha waves" has doubled—the brain wave pattern pertaining to content and bliss. Also, they found that "delta brushes" occur during the hold—"delta brushes" happen only when new synapses form.

Some NICUs prefer that the baby reach medical stability before parents begin to use the Kangaroo Hold. However, some hospitals believe so strongly in the practice, that they begin soon after birth.

Hey fans, what's your opinion? Since the Kangaroo Hold has been found to benefit the baby's parents, do we feel Alex received some comfort from this tiny preemie?

For more information, please visit:

http://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT00418106

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