New research shows that snuggling with their newborns in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) eases mothers’ anxiety while facilitating early bonding.
An ongoing study conducted at a metropolitan NICU found that the complex medical care required by premature babies or those with special needs often interrupts the early bonding between mother and child.
Researchers discovered that just an hour a day of mothers holding their babies “kangaroo style” — skin-to-skin inside the pouch of the parent’s shirt — went a long way towards reducing maternal stress levels.
“We found that all of the mothers reported an objective decrease in their stress level after skin-to-skin contact with their babies,” said neonatologist Natalia Isaza, M.D., FAAP of Children’s National Health System in Washington, D.C.
This was especially true regarding the reported stress of being separated from their infants, feeling helpless, and unable to protect their infant from pain and painful procedures, as well as the general experience in the NICU, she said.
“We already know there are physiological benefits in the newborns when they are held skin-to-skin,” Isaza said.
Some of those benefits include stabilization of heart rate, breathing patterns and blood oxygen levels, gains in sleep time and weight, decreased crying, greater breastfeeding success, and earlier hospital discharge, she enumerated.
“Now we have more evidence that skin-to-skin contact can also decrease parental stress that can interfere with bonding, health and emotional wellness, and the interpersonal relations of parents, as well as breastfeeding rates,” she continued. “This is a simple technique to benefit both parent and child that perhaps should be encouraged in all NICUs.”
The study was presented at the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) National Conference & Exhibition.