SSM Health Medical Minute – Kangaroo Care and massage therapy is proven to help NICU preemies

Medical Minute

ST. LOUIS – Two proven methods for preemies inside the NICU, Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at SSM Health Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital are being used every day to help their patients thrive and achieve positive outcomes.

The first is Kangaroo Care, a method that encourages either parent to hold the baby with skin-to-skin contact. The baby is typically naked except for its diaper and is place in an upright position against the chest of the parent for a few hours.

Dr. Amit Mathur, a SLUCare Neonatologist at SSM Health Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital, says that Kangaroo Care has proven many benefits including developing a close bond with the parents, but it is also medically beneficial. Babies held close to their mother’s body not only have a higher survival rate, they thrive and achieve development outcomes faster.

Kangaroo Care is encouraged at SSM Health hospitals with NICU babies and healthy newborns because the outcomes include:

  • Stabilizing baby’s heart rate
  • Improve baby’s breathing pattern and making breathing more regular
  • Improving oxygen saturation levels
  • Gaining in sleep time
  • Experiencing more rapid weight gain
  • Decreasing crying
  • Having more successful breastfeeding episodes
  • Having earlier discharge from the hospital

While the baby benefits, so does the mother. Kangaroo Care improves bonding with your baby in addition to:

  • Increasing your breast milk supply
  • Increasing your confidence in the ability to care for your new baby
  • Increasing your confidence that your baby is well cared for
  • Increasing your sense of control

Massage therapy is also being used in the NICU to help babies with physical touch. Often, preemies are attached to life saving equipment and often spend many months outside from a natural environment. These preemies often associate touch with negative experiences as they need to be hooked up, poked or prodded to help them medically.

Massage therapy provides positive long-term development of the infant and gives families the positive opportunity to touch and feel their baby to bond while helping their baby maximize sleep, comfort and neurodevelopmental outcomes. Dr. Mathur says that touch is one of the most developed senses at birth. Touch provides support and pleasure to the baby to provide stress relief and parent-infant bonding.

SSM Health Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital NICU is nationally ranked for care as one of the “Best Children’s Hospitals” ranked by U.S. News & World Report for 2020-2021.

To learn more about Cardinal Glennon NICU, click here.

The SSM Health Medical Minute airs Wednesdays on News 11 at 7pm and FOX 2 News at 9pm.

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Medical Minute


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