As we mentioned in our last post, the Kangaroo Challenge 2016 is coming up in May! We don’t know about you, but we are excited to see hospitals across the world getting ready to tally all the hours their families will provide kangaroo care to their little ones in their neonatal intensive care units and special care nurseries.
Kangaroo care has been proven to be very beneficial to babies and their parents while holding them. According to a Sunnybrook Hospital’s 2013 infographic about Kangaroo Care, it can benefit mom in several ways including: it helps release hormones that promote bonding and attachment, increases breast milk production and volume, decreases likelihood of anxiety or depression. And it also benefits dads! The ways it benefits dads includes: those special hormones for bonding and attachment, helps fathers cope during an unsettling NICU experience and helps them to feel like they are making a valuable contribution to their baby’s medical care.
These are all amazing outcomes of the simple act of Kangaroo Care. But did you know it doesn’t have to stop when you leave the hospital? Babies will continue to benefit from the close, calm, contact to moms and dads chests in the months to come.
La Leche League Canada also points out that kangaroo care, “helps regulate the baby’s temperature, breathing, heart rate and sugar levels. It also calms the baby so he doesn’t get stressed out or cry a lot. It is easier for many babies to latch on to the breast when held skin-to-skin. It is good for both full term and premature babies.”
This leads us to tell you a bit about our friend, Hayley Mullins, creator of the SleepBelt. What is the SleepBelt, you ask? The SleepBelt is a smart and simple concept, which allows for skin to skin cuddles, forward facing on a parents lap and acts as a support for unassisted sitting. We at CPBF-FBPC know that while the idea of holding a baby skin-to-skin in the hospital is a great one, it can at times feel a bit overwhelming to new parents of preemies, and often times it is valid worry about how to hold a baby securely to the chest while navigating the leads and tubing.
We asked Hayley to tell us a little bit more about the SleepBelt.
What are some of the common fears or worries a new parent with a young baby or even a prematurely born child might experience when it comes to holding their baby for skin-to-skin time?
I can’t speak for anyone else, but I was always terrified of becoming “too relaxed” and letting my baby fall… It actually happened to me, and I’ve since learned it happens to a lot of people (my daughter is fine!). Being a new parent is overwhelming and exhausting, and I was always afraid to just lean back and enjoy my baby. Also – I realize how incredibly silly it sounds now – I was scared of “spoiling” my baby and never being able to put her down if we had too many cuddles at the beginning! It’s impossible to spoil your newborn with too many hugs – your baby spent months inside of your body… it’s only natural that they want to spend as much time there as possible, listening to the familiar sound your heartbeat and soaking up your warmth – it’s home for your baby.
Did you get a chance to do kangaroo care with your baby while in the hospital?
Yes – I was lucky. When my baby was born she was placed skin-to-skin immediately; the nurses encouraged it while we were in recovery, and of course we continued this when we got home. It was the only time she seemed happy, and the only time I (sort of) felt like I knew what I was doing for the first few months.
Can you tell me about your experience of your kangaroo time and what led you to develop the SleepBelt?
The only time my daughter slept soundly was cuddled on my chest; it felt like the only way we could find a moment of peace together. As a new mom, I struggled… skin-to-skin gave me back some control – I knew how to calm her, soothe her to sleep, and it really helped us bond. One day, she was asleep on my chest and I took my hands off of her to text my sister; my baby startled, and fell to the floor. I tried wraps, carriers, slings and skin-to-skin shirts, but nothing did what I wanted it to do – gently belt my sleeping baby to me.
Who would use a SleepBelt and for how long?
Anyone! Moms, dads, grandparents, nurses, caregivers – it’s so easy to use and comfortable, too – with or without clothing. It’s appropriate for the tiniest of preemies (it won’t interfere with medical lines, and is soft and gentle with 4-way stretch) and twins. Because it’s not a carrier (all carriers require some stiffness to bear weight), there is no weight limit – and LOTS of uses: as a pregnancy belt, for kangaroo care with your newborn, to keep baby secure on your lap, and as added support in a chair. I STILL use it with my 20 month old. As long as your baby will cuddle, it will support them (and you).
What are people saying about the SleepBelt?
A mom named Natalie recently shared some feedback with us…
My son, Keaton, is in intensive care at Sick Kids and our nurse told me about your product. Keaton has been in the hospital since he was born more than 2 months ago. He has so many tubes and monitors attached to him that it can make holding him tricky. I know how important skin-to-skin is for bonding and for a preemie’s development, so I try to do it as often as I can but he usually slides down into an uncomfortable position or my arms end up getting tired. As soon as our nurse helped me slip him into the SleepBelt we were both so comfortable. He fell into a deep sleep without sliding down, and I was able to have my hands free to read him a story. Such a great invention! Thank you so much!! -Natalie
The SleepBelt is one of many products designed to help with skin-to-skin care. Our discussion of the SleepBelt or any similar product is not intended as an endorsement or recommendation, and we encourage parents to discuss the use of this or any similar product with their baby’s care team. We have received no compensation for this post. To learn more about the SleepBelt and how it is used in NICUs, please visit their website.