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Kangaroo Care and the Rescue Hug

My mother sent me this CNN video tonight about a 1995 photograph that changed the way babies are cared for the NICU.  It gave rise to the idea of Kangaroo Care (I’m assuming all preemie parents are nodding their heads right about now) as well as co-bedding twins in the NICU.

It goes beyond cute: we hit a similar situation with the twins while they were in the hospital. One baby had bradycardia and the other had tachycardia, but when the nurses placed them together, their heart rates would regulate themselves and fall into sync with one another. They would suck each other’s hands (as well as yank out each other’s NG tubes because, literally, what is more fun than tugging on that thing coming out of your sibling’s nose?) and rub each other’s hair. And then, they would tuck themselves together as they were in my belly, with one head under the other one’s chin. We have so many photos of them curled into that position.

Watching this video made me cry. I took out pictures of the twins a few days after birth, sleeping together while holding hands. After coming off an evening of reading Harry Potter IV and talking about designing an app, it was amazing to think they were ever that small. And that their lives were so deeply affected by another set of twins’ hug.

Did you know that the practice of Kangaroo Care and co-bedding twins only went back to 1995?  I had no clue of the origin.


1 persnickety { 02.26.13 at 9:53 pm }

I thought that it was practised earlier than that in less developed countries (fewer actual NICU resources) but it makes sense that it came in around the 1990’s in more developed countries- the beleif in the power of modern technology started to realise that there was value in more human focussed medecine. (that sounds really wanky, but I can’t find the words- it was a time when a lot of older, more traditional methods were recognised to have value and reason and be applied in medecine)

2 Blanche { 02.26.13 at 10:49 pm }

The NICU my LO was in gave a lot of lip service to kangaroo but the layout & chair options available made it very difficult to actually implement. The only set of twins I saw were in separate incubators, and actually seemed to be having a pretty rough time of it.

LO’s spot was at the far end of a row so the path to the back half of the room was directly behind the sitting area. All the traffic made it very difficult for me to be comfortable getting naked enough to do it properly. Then you add in the fact that the only rocking chair was too far away to be practical & the remaining chairs were armless rolling desk chairs & it just became too much trouble to try to coordinate. That was one of my few disappointments with the NICU stay. Perhaps if LO’s stay had been more extended I would have been more demanding?

3 luna { 02.26.13 at 11:26 pm }

that image is legendary. so powerful. I hadn’t seen this story behind it so thanks for sharing. such an amazing story!

when Z was in the NICU there was a distinct correlation between her vitals and my presence — my voice, smell, touch. it was so clear.

leave it to the NICU nurses to figure it out!

4 Another Dreamer { 02.26.13 at 11:40 pm }

I didn’t realize they’ve only been doing that here since 1995. I’ve read a lot of amazing articles about it though- it’s really amazing. A testament to the power of touch and that connection we carry 🙂

5 StacieT { 02.27.13 at 12:04 am }

That made me teary, too. Our boys didn’t get the chance to co-bed until both were off of their vents and in open beds, which meant they were already over two months old. Sometimes I wonder if they would have done better those early days had they been able to be together.

6 Pam/Wordgirl { 02.27.13 at 12:11 am }

I am crying now too.

Beautiful. Thank you for sharing this.



7 Jendeis { 02.27.13 at 5:41 am }

(OK, totally shallow but…) You mean that Grey’s Anatomy didn’t invent it as an excuse to see Alex Karev without his shirt?

8 Kate (Bee In The Bonnet) { 02.27.13 at 8:19 am }

It just seems so obvious to me that touch is so important to healthy adults (or to healthy newborns) that it baffles me that applying this to struggling neonates was a novel concept as late as 1995.

It also baffles me that general “wisdom” is so completely anti-co-sleeping. Touch and closeness is so important– if a parent chooses to safely co-sleep, why have such strident recommendations against doing so?

And it also baffles me that someone born in 1995 is now a junior in high school… jeez, I feel old!

9 Lori Lavender Luz { 02.27.13 at 9:04 am }

Speechless. So touching. Literally.

10 a { 02.27.13 at 9:31 am }

Haha – Lori made a pun.

I can’t imagine that this wasn’t done earlier than 1995 – how wonderful that the nurse had such a brilliant idea.

11 loribeth { 02.27.13 at 10:04 am }

I had never heard of kangaroo care until I started attending support group (in 1998) and meeting parents whose babies had been in the NICU. It made sense to me.

One of our group friends has been very involved in a preemie parents support group at the hospital where all four of her kids (three still here) were born prematurely. She actually went to Estonia a few years back to learn about and help introduce a new program that involves preemie parents more directly with the care of their babies. It’s been a huge success and has been getting a lot of media coverage lately:


12 Katie { 02.27.13 at 2:29 pm }

*tears* What an amazing story. I had no idea that kangaroo care only dated back to 95. I got to do kangaroo care with K when she was in the NICU, and it was an amazing experience. The nurses swore up and down that it’s what helped her recover from the withdrawal so quickly.

13 Pepper { 02.27.13 at 3:24 pm }

Lovely. I love that story. My preemie benefited so much from kangaroo care, especially with my husband. Something about little girls and their dads. 🙂 NICU stories always make me tear up because that time was both so emotional and fills me with such gratitude for the nurses and doctors who took care of my little miracle and the beautiful little person she becomes more and more each day.

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