KANGAROO CARE and BREASTFEEDING YOUR PREMATURE INFANT

Someone very close to me struggled to become pregnant.  When she finally did, with twins, we were all over the moon with joy.  Unfortunately a short 32 weeks later, her water broke and she ended up in an emergency C section.  Her twins were in the NICU for quite a long time.  They were subjected to isolation, lights, tubes and only a few short hours a day with skin to skin.  Had I known then what I know now, I believe I could have had her babies’ breastfeeding from the start.  Instead, they were bottle fed with a mixture of breast milk and formula.

Kangaroo care is essentially round the clock skin to skin contact with mother and baby.  There is a wrap or carrier that has been specially designed for this.  Mothers have the opportunity to give the natural warmth to their preterm baby that they should have had in utero.  Studies have shown[i] that skin to skin care has lowered the blood pressure, jaundice and heart rate of a neonate.   Additionally, It aides in bringing the mother’s milk in.  As well, the baby knows the mothers smell and voice.  It’s as close to the baby being inside as possible.  There was another study that shows that the decibel level of an isolate

is above what it should be[ii]. It is a low level noise that manufacturers have decided to try and correct rather than hospitals eliminating the isolate all together and allowing a baby to be skin to skin.  Another insight is when a prisoner is in solitary confinement it plays games with their minds.  Can you imagine what it does to a preterm neonate?  Or even a full term baby?

In addition to the regulations of the body, Kangaroo care gives the opportunity for the baby to have regular access to the breast.  Even if the baby is supplemented with a feeding tube or lactation aid, the baby once strong enough, will make its way to the breast and try to latch on.  Neonates as little as 28 weeks have been shown to be able to begin the breastfeeding process[iii].

Breastfeeding a preterm infant is not an impossible task.  It is something that you will have great pride with when you overcome the obstacles put in your way.  Know that providing your preterm baby with breast milk is just as important if not more as your full term infant. A preterm infant needs the antibodies and stabilization that breastfeeding and skin to skin care will give them.

At first your baby may receive your pumped milk in a feeding tube.  This can be done while the baby is on you.  Speak with your medical team to see if it’s possible that a bottle is not given.  Much like a full term infant, a bottle can confuse a baby as they use different sucking reflexes.   A bottle doesn’t require any ‘work’ on behalf of the baby. Be sure to be strong with your communication with your medical team.  Go in informed and have resources and information on hand.  You can do it.  Make sure you have adequate people to support you both emotionally and with your other familial duties.  Wishing you a

[i] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12804473

http://apps.who.int/rhl/archives/gpcom/en/

http://www.nbci.ca/index.php?option=com_content&id=82:the-importance-of-skin-to-skin-contact-&Itemid=17

http://www.internationalbreastfeedingjournal.com/content/8/1/1

[ii] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22791088

http://www.cwru.edu/med/epidbio/mphp439/NoisePollution_NICU.pdf (see the last page for a list of decibles associated with machines or other noises.  There are tidbits of information throughout the article that are informative as well)

http://digitalcommons.wustl.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1643&context=pacs_capstones

[iii] http://www.nbci.ca/index.php?option=com_content&id=70:breastfeeding-the-premature-baby&Itemid=17 (an array of information regarding breastfeeding facts and your premature infant)

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