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Kangaroo Care: It’s not just for kangaroos

By Francis La Rosa

When kangaroos are born, they are very small, about the size of a peanut. After they are born, they crawl into the mother’s pouch and stay there for months receiving the necessary warmth, comfort and protection. 

Did you know there are benefits of the same type of connection and bonding between parents and prematurely born babies? This is called Kangaroo Care (skin-to-skin).

The benefits of Kangaroo Care cannot be replicated with technology. One of the important benefits, is the ability of skin-to-skin to promote brain development. Diane Schultz, a bedside nurse, from St. Boniface Hospital in Winnipeg, Manitoba, advocates for the use of kangaroo care during each baby’s stay in the NICU. 

Ten years ago, Diane attended a neonatal conference in Arizona, which detailed the research and evidence of what Kangaroo Care can do for premature babies. The potential benefits of Kangaroo Care resonated with Diane and she was inspired to bring what she learned back to St. Boniface. 

When Diane first returned to the NICU, she noted that there was no formal technique used to transfer babies to the arms of their parent. Diane then introduced the “sandwich technique” as a simple method for carefully picking up a baby, which has helped parents feel more comfortable when caring for their baby. This is especially important as they don’t want to hurt their baby, she says “Parents are already vulnerable, you don’t want them to feel guilty”. While, Kangaroo Care can seem a bit scary at first, with the proper guidelines and training, parents easily adopt the holding technique as part of their everyday care routine.

Ten years after Diane’s formal introduction to Kangaroo Care, she now teaches other nurses working at St Boniface on how to properly execute kangaroo care for premature babies, which has been a great learning opportunity for staff. Diane says, “More people know about it now and the evidence that is behind it.” Parents and clinicians are both advocates of Kangaroo Care, having seen the many benefits.

An important benefit of kangaroo care aside from the health promotion to premature babies that is often overlooked is the ability to create a family bond. It helps mothers as well as babies, with the ability to decrease stress hormones and promote oxytocin. Sometimes parents feel a certain level of guilt surrounding the premature birth of their child, and kangaroo care is one action parents feel they have some control over. It is something they can do to make a positive change for their baby’s wellbeing.

To find out more about kangaroo care and the sandwich technique video of Diane

Do you want to make a difference? Contact your NICU clinic manager to discuss the opportunity to create a support group for families in the NICU. Canadian Premature Babies Foundation trains NICU parents to provide effective peer support and provides grants for hospitals to help get these groups up and running.

Looking to connect with families with premature babies outside the NICU? Join us in our private Facebook support network!

Nurtured in the NICU stories are created by the Canadian Premature Babies Foundation to highlight the wonderful work of doctors, nurses, and parent volunteers in Canada’s NICUs. For more information or if you would like to share an initiative happening in your NICU, please send us an email at

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