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Phoebe promotes Kangaroo Care

Photo by Jennifer Parks

Photo by Jennifer Parks

ALBANY, Ga. -- Holding a baby skin-to-skin for close contact does a lot for both an infant and a parent.

This idea, dubbed Kangaroo Care, is something Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital's neonatal intensive care unit is trying to get the word out on.

"This is something we have always done, but we are trying to promote it," said Lindsay Bridges, a nurse in Phoebe's NICU. "We don't think many parents (know about it).

"A baby that is skin-to-skin can help keep (the infant) warm."

Kangaroo Care has been tested with premature and full-term babies since 1983, with more than 300 studies conducted. Such studies have shown that the technique, which involves a parent holding an infant skin-to-skin on the chest, helps babies keep regular heart and breathing rates -- and also helps them maintain overall well-being.

"It can also help stimulate the milk (for mothers)," said Bridges.

Essentially, the idea is to remind the child of the environment in the womb. "They have been in your tummy hearing your heart beat and breathing, so when they're on your chest it helps them," Bridges explained.

The technique is also designed to help the bonding process, Bridges added.

Earlier this year, Phoebe established a family care room, isolated from the rest of the NICU, that allows parents privacy while conducting Kangaroo Care.

"In the NICU it gets busy, so it's not very private," Bridges said. "This allows for the family to have some quiet time."

There are plans in the near future for a group to paint a mural on the room's wall within the coming weeks, Bridges said.

The Benton family of Moultrie is among the area's biggest supporters of Kangaroo Care. Jerry and Jeanenne Benton used Kangaroo Care on their first son, now two years old, and are now using it for their second child, Jonathan Benton, who was born earlier this month.

"It helps her (Jeanenne Benton)," her husband said. "It gives her an extra kick in her step."

Their support of the technique comes from that it also promotes breastfeeding.

"I know breastfeeding is wonderful," Jeanenne Benton said. "I like breastfeeding because of the bonding time. It means it is special time."

The technique is not exclusive just to mothers. It's something fathers can take advantage of too.

"We have had dads take off their shirts to do Kangaroo Care," Bridges said.

For premature infants, experts recommend that parents Kangaroo as frequently as possible. Generally, a baby should receive at least one hour of Kangaroo Care four times a week.