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Kangaroo Care Studies Show Benefits

By Jacqueline Chinappi

Here we will look at the studies which have been done involving Kangaroo Care. This skin-to-skin contact has been studied since it's introduction in the 1980's and has served as a bonding device for mothers and babies.

Kangaroo Care & Interactions

Kangaroo Care is the skin to skin contact between mother and/or caregiver and infant. Many studies have shown the benefits of Kangaroo Care and there have been no studies to show any harm.

In a study done by Feldman, Weller, Eidelman, and Sirota (2002) Kangaroo Care was explored to identify how it may affect parent-child interactions and infant development. This study compared two groups of premature infants. One group consisted of 73 premature infants who were exposed to Kangaroo Care. The other groups consisted of 73 premature infants who were exposed to incubator care. Several factors were compared at different points in time. At 37 weeks gestational age variables studied were mother-child interaction, maternal depression, and mother’s awareness. At 3 months of age variables studied included infant disposition and maternal and paternal sensitivity. At this time the Home Observation for Measurement of the Environment (HOME) was also used to observe the home environment. When the infants turned 6 months old researchers used Bayley-II to help measure cognitive development and mother-infant interactions were videotaped. (Feldman, et al, 2002)

Feldman, Weller, Sirota, and Eidelman (2002) performed another study with Kangaroo Care involving and parental interaction. One hundred and forty-six infants along with their parents were divided into groups. One group received Kangaroo Care and one group received traditional care. The variables coded were global relational style and micro patterns of proximity and touch. (Feldman, et al, 2002) After Kangaroo Care mothers and fathers showed more sensitivity and were less invasive. Kangaroo Care infants showed less negative effect and the family style was more unified. Conclusion shows that triadic relations as well as parent-infant and spousal relations resulted in a closer proximity after Kangaroo Care.(Feldman, et al, 2002)

Results showed that Kangaroo Care mothers had more positive interactions with their infants at 37 weeks gestational age. During this time mothers were shown to be more in tune with their infant and the infants showed more signs of being alert. At 3 months of age Kangaroo Care mothers and fathers were shown to not only be more sensitive but to also provide a better home environment for their infant. At 6 months of age the infants who were exposed to Kangaroo Care scored higher on the Bayley Mental Developmental Index (KC: mean: 96.39; controls: mean: 91.81) and the Psychomotor Developmental Index (KC: mean: 85.47; controls: mean: 80.53). (Feldman, et al, 2002)

Healthy Newborns

A study done by Ferber and Makhoul (2004) evaluated the effects on Kangaroo Care on neuro-behavioral responses with healthy newborns. The study design was made up of a randomized, controlled trial which used a table of random numbers. Forty-seven pairs of mothers and infant participants were separated into two groups. One group received standard care and one group received Kangaroo Care. The Kangaroo Care lasted for one hour and had begun 15-20 minutes after the infants were born. After babies were brought to the nursery, results showed that the infants exposed to Kangaroo Care not only slept longer but also had shown more flexor actions and postures and showed fewer extensor actions than the control group. (Ferber, et al, 2004) The researchers concluded that Kangaroo Care may very well influence sleep and motor movements in infants shortly after birth.

Gazzolo, Masetti, and Meli (2000) sought out to find if Kangaroo had any impact of full term infants who had been exposed to cardiac post-operative intensive care during the early post-extubation hours. Five full term male infants were exposed to Kangaroo Care 12 hours after extubation during 2 hour intervals. The infants were evaluated using cardio respiratory constraints. The outcome of the study showed that heart rate (123 ± 4 vs 128 ± 5 bpm), respiratory frequency (43 ± 3 vs 51 ± 5 breath pm), transcutaneous carbon dioxide (46 ± 2 vs 50 ± 4 mmHg) and central venous pressure (11 ± 0.8 vs 12 ± 1.2 mmHg) decreased considerably(p < 0.05 for all), Factors which increased were oxygen saturation (78 ± 6 vs 74 ± 5 mmHg) and transcutaneous oxygen pressure (42 ± 2 vs 38 ± 3 mmHg) (p < 0.05 for all). (Gazzolo, et al, 2000) The study concluded that Kangaroo Care may be an influential therapy in regards to stabilizing cardio respiratory status in infants during post operative care.

Long Term Effects

Kambarami, Chidede, and Pereira (2003) studied the long term effects of Kangaroo Care over a 12 month period. Two hundred and ninety seven premature infants were chosen from Harare Hospital to be evaluated over 12 months after being discharged on Kangaroo Care. Results showed that 79 (26.6%) died, 141 (47.5%) survived and followed up and 77 (25.9%) did not follow-up. Infants who died were compared to those infants who followed up. Results were that the mother's age <20 years, birth weight <1500 g and maternal death and constant morbidity were considerable risk factors for infant death. The variables which were not significantly related to infant death were the age of the infants at discharge and the weight of the infants at discharge. The study concluded that birth weight, the mother’s age and health are vital in regards to the infants 1st year survival rate alongside Kangaroo Care. (Kambarami, et al, 2003)

Several studies have come about since Kangaroo Care first developed in Bogotá, Columbia. Kangaroo Care is shown to be linked to better survival rates of preterm infants as well as better physical, mental, and emotional well being of the infants and parents. Much is still yet to be uncovered about Kangaroo Care and its benefits.


Feldman, R., Weller, A., Eidelman, A.I., and Sirota, L. (2002). Comparison of Skin-to-Skin (Kangaroo) and Traditional Care: Parenting Outcomes and Preterm Infant Development. Pediatrics, 110 (1), 16.

Ferber, S.G. & Makhoul, I.R. (2004). The Effect of Skin-to-Skin Contact (Kangaroo Care) Shortly After Birth on the Neurobehavioral Responses of the Term Newborn: A Randomized, Controlled Trial. Pediatrics, 113 (4), 858-865.

Gazzolo, D., Masetti, P., and Meli, M. (2000). Kangaroo Care Improves Post-Extubation Cardiorespiratory Parameters in Infants After Open Heart Surgery. Acta Paediatrica, 89 (6), 728-729.

Kambarmai, R., Chidede, O., and Pereira, N. (2003). Long-term Outcome of Preterm Infants Discharged Home on Kangaroo Care in a Developing Country. Annals of Tropical Pediatrics, 23 (1), 55-59.