Kangaroo Mother Care (KMC) has just turned 20, and we’ve all received a gift—insight into the long-term benefits of this once daring, but now mainstream, baby care practice. A new study follows up with the preemies in the landmark trial—who are now young adults—and the findings are quite remarkable.

Kangaroo Care's Near-Term Benefits

For those unfamiliar with KMC, in its original form, preterm/low birthweight babies are strapped upright with skin touching skin to the mother's bosom and exclusively (or nearly exclusively) breastfed. Its near-term benefits include regulating a baby’s temp, heart rate and breathing; promoting weight gain, deep sleep and breastfeeding success; and most wonderfully, lowering risk of death and severe infection compared to traditional incubator care, in which parents hold their beloved babies very little.

The most commonly known offshoot of KMC is “skin-to-skin care” (SSC), today recommended for pre- and full-term babies alike, in which moms and dads both spend time bare-chested cuddling their diapered newborn. SSC has shown the added awesomeness of improved breastfeeding and milk production for the mother, increased satisfaction and lower stress for both parents, and enhance baby-bonding.

Kangaroo Care's Long-Term Benefits

So how are the original kanga kids faring as adults? Compared to the control group, the babies who got KMC are more likely to live into their 20s, have bigger brains and score slightly higher on intelligence. They tend to be better socially adjusted adults, showing less aggressiveness, impulsiveness, hyperactivity and antisocial behavior. They even skipped school less and earned slightly more in wages than those who didn’t the same high-touch infant care! The study theorizes, KMC may help less-educated/low-income mothers become more sensitive to their babies’ needs, resulting in equivalent caregiving found in more favorable environments.  

While the recent study shows a link—but not a direct relationship—between the long-term benefits of KMC and SSC, it can’t be denied that our current knowledge already makes it worthwhile. And also, it’s simply lovely to hold your newborn close as can be, as much as you can. Don’t hold back!

Photo via Akron Children's Hospital

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