‘Kangaroo care’ is a term coined by professionals to describe the act of putting a neonate or newborn to the mother’s body ‘skin on skin’. It is practised by fathers too, but the emphasis is mostly on the mother due to it being linked to a positive breastfeeding relationship. It is known to stabilise heart rate, temperature, promotes physiological and psychological warmth and bonding and allows baby to be colonized by the same bacteria as the mother, giving nature a helping hand with immune response and the prevention of allergies. They are also arguably happier, being less likely to cry than a baby put into an incubator or cot.
With an infant when you put your baby onto your own body, their body no longer needs to work so hard to keep warm, using fewer calories. Their body begins to depend on the mother, requiring the baby to use fewer calories to stay warm. The temperature of the mother’s breasts keep the child at the temperature required for them to sleep comfortably, have the best oxygen saturation levels and use the least calories. Not only that, the mother’s temperature can change rapidly in response to the child’s: as baby warms up, Mum’s breasts cool and vice versa.
I believe that Kangaroo care works on toddlers too. In fact I believe it works on toddlers and children up until the age that they no longer want to sleep cuddled up to their Mama’s bare chest! The thing is though, despite trawling the internet this morning to find you some wonderful research on this, I’ve come up with nothing! I found lots of anecdotal stories: Mamas in chat rooms and forums asking the question “My toddler is sick, will skin on skin help?” and other Mamas responding with their experiences but I haven’t found anything even remotely scholarly on the subject!
There’s a very lovely website here which gives lots of information and advice about Kangaroo Care, but it doesn’t mention toddlers. I emailed Dr Jill Bergman (an expert in this field) and I will update my post if and when she responds.
Anyway, I had a need for Kangaroo Care last night when Oona developed some kind of a horrid virus yesterday. She had runny yellow poo and a temperature. She was getting herself quite distressed since she is potty trained, and doesn’t want to soil herself but she couldn’t get to the potty or toilet in time. She would shout “Toilet! Toilet” and I would grab her and run, but each time I was too late and she was shivering because of the temperature and sickness and crying because she was upset that she was dirty. It was such a shame!
I ended up having an early night, sending Paul to sleep on the couch, stripping us both off and cuddling up to her in the big bed. She was burning up when we first got into bed but within a few minutes her temperature was normal and she was sleeping soundly. Until she rolled away in her sleep, when her temperature climbed again!
So, I was up most of the night, keeping her fluids up through breastfeeding, getting her to the loo when she shouted and keeping her cuddled up close. Last night though, Kangaroo care helped support Oona’s immune system naturally…so not just for neonates! Give it a try next time your little one is ill, it works like a charm!
Just a little bit of reassurance:
I think my readers know that I prefer to use natural methods to support my kids’ immune systems, such as homeopathy, herbal medicine and skin on skin before resorting to over the counter medicines such as Calpol BUT I would like to reassure my readers that I have used Calpol (or alternative pain relief) if my more natural methods fail: I have my emergency bottle in the fridge (top shelf, best place to keep it away from the kids!) but I prefer not to treat fevers, believing that fever is the body’s natural immune response to infection. I also take my kids to the GP if I feel their symptoms are lasting too long or if the child seems lethargic. Luckily Oona seems much improved today, she hasn’t eaten much but has had lots of fluids and is currently sleeping next to me as I write 🙂