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Kangaroo Challenge highlights importance of skin-to-skin care for babies

Toronto, May 26, 2017

By Skaidra Puodziunas

Jennifer, mother of an NICU baby engaging in kangaroo care with her little one
Jennifer (above), mother of an NICU baby, engages in kangaroo care with her little one, as does Shail (below) with his child.
Shail, father of an NICU baby engaging in kangaroo care with her little one

St. Michael’s Hospital’s Neo-natal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) participated in the international Kangaroo Challenge for the first time this year from May 1-15.

“The goal was to encourage the practice of ‘kangaroo care;’ a method of holding a baby skin-to-skin with their parents or relatives,” said NICU RN Vivian Osei-Cobbina.

During kangaroo care, a baby is held upright against their caregiver’s bare chest. To encourage as much skin contact as possible, the baby wears only a diaper and a blanket across their back to keep them warm.

NICU staff tracked the number of hours each baby in the NICU received kangaroo care per day. The NICU achieved a total of 849.18 hours of kangaroo care during the Kangaroo Challenge, which averages to 3.7 hours per baby per day.

“This challenge was a great success and a reflection of the power of team work,” said Osei-Cobbina. “All the nurses got really involved and families too! The challenge raised awareness of the benefits of kangaroo care and it also helped us measure how well we’re doing to encourage this important practice.”

   
“The nurses did an excellent job of making the challenge fun and providing helpful information on the benefits of kangaroo care. It’s been a really special experience.”
- Jennifer, mom in the NICU.

Kangaroo care is an important part of St. Michael Hospital’s family integrated care project to empower parents to take on a larger role in their preemies’ development.

Research shows that skin-to-skin contact can help stabilize preemies’ heart rates, breathing, body temperatures and sleeping patterns. It’s been associated with shorter hospital stays and can even help babies grow faster.

“What was also great about this challenge was how community members got involved by donating daily prizes from Blue Jays baseball tickets to Maple Leafs hockey swag,” said Osei-Cobbina. “It really made the challenge more fun and we hope to make it a tradition.”

About St. Michael's Hospital

St. Michael’s Hospital provides compassionate care to all who enter its doors. The hospital also provides outstanding medical education to future health care professionals in more than 29 academic disciplines. Critical care and trauma, heart disease, neurosurgery, diabetes, cancer care, and care of the homeless are among the Hospital’s recognized areas of expertise. Through the Keenan Research Centre and the Li Ka Shing International Healthcare Education Center, which make up the Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute, research and education at St. Michael’s Hospital are recognized and make an impact around the world. Founded in 1892, the hospital is fully affiliated with the University of Toronto.