Here’s a summary of how the Kangaroo care method and the Zaky Hand affects premature babies – especially those in the NICU (neo-natal intensive care unit). The Kangaroo care method increases a baby’s oxygen levels, improves sleep, and enhances parent-baby bonding. The Zaky Ergonomic Bonding and Positioning Pillow for Preemies and Infants is a therapeutic pillow for premature babies; it takes Kangaroo care a step further.
Both the Kangaroo care method and the Zaky hand are especially good for premature babies in the NICU (neonatal intensive care unit), but all newborns and parents would benefit from this type of contact. Research shows that the Kangaroo method has a long-term positive effect on the brain development of premature babies who are breastfed.
Neurophysiologist Cyril Schneider says, “Thanks to Kangaroo Mother Care, infants benefited from nervous system stimulation — the sound of the parent’s heart and the warmth of their body — during a critical period for the development of neural connections between the cerebral hemispheres. This promoted immediate and future brain development.” Schneider works in the Department of Rehabilitation in the Faculty of Medicine and of the School of Psychology at the Université Laval.
“Infants in incubators also receive a lot of stimulation, but often the stimulation is too intense and stressful for the brain capacity of the very premature,” says psychology researcher Réjean Tessier, also of Université Laval. “The Kangaroo Mother Care reproduces the natural conditions of the intrauterine environment in which the infants would have developed had they not been born premature. These beneficial effects on the brain are in evidence at least until adolescence and perhaps beyond.” – from Preemies’ Brains Reap Long-Term Benefits from Kangaroo Mother Care.
The Kangaroo Care Method
The idea behind the Kangaroo care method is simple: hold your baby against your bare chest. Your baby only wears a diaper and perhaps a cap, and is placed in an upright position against your chest. You’ll put a blanket over the baby, so he or she is warm and snuggly. Your heartbeat and breathing rhythms provide many emotional and physical health benefits to your newborn baby.
“Skin-to-skin contact promotes more consistent heart and respiratory rates; it stabilizes oxygen needs; and improves weight gain and helps increase breast milk supply. This method is especially valuable in caring for premature babies who appear to thrive in this special ‘incubator.’” – from Kangaroo Care.
The benefits of kangaroo care to your newborn baby include:
- Stabilization of the baby’s heart rate
- Improved (more regular) breathing pattern
- Improved oxygen saturation levels (an indicator of how well oxygen is being delivered to all the infants organs and tissues)
- Gain in sleep time
- More rapid weight gain
- Decreased crying
- More successful breastfeeding episodes
- Earlier hospital discharge
The benefits of kangaroo care to you (as parents) include:
- Improved bonding, feelings of closeness with their babies
- Increased breast milk supply
- Increased confidence in ability to care for their babies
- Increased confidence that their babies are well cared for
- Increased sense of control
These lists of the benefits of the Kangaroo care method for both parents and newborns are from the Cleveland Clinic.
The Zaky Hand
Sometimes you can’t physically be there to hold your baby, or you can’t hold your baby for other reasons. The Zaky Hand is a hand-shaped pillow that imitates the touch, smell, weight, and warmth of your hands. The Zaky Ergonomic Bonding and Positioning Pillow for Preemies and Infants
Parents are encouraged by some nursing staff to sleep with the Zaky Hand before cradling your premature baby in it. That way, the hand smells like you – which will comfort your newborn.
Zaky Hands aren’t just for babies in neonatal intensive care units. Here’s what a child life specialist says about Zakys and car seats:
“The Zakys are wonderful devices to use in car seats. They help to properly position infants and support them while in the car seat. They are safe to use because they do not impede with the car seat’s ability to protect the infant during a crash. There are many products on the market that advertise that they properly position infants in the car seat, but the problem with these products is they are usually attached to the car seat in some way. This can be dangerous because that product could interfere with the car seat’s ability to protect the child during a crash. That item was not crash tested with the car seat, so there is no way of knowing if it will impede the function of the car seat. The Zakys are safe to use in car seats because they help to get the infant in the correct position so the car seat’s harness straps are able to secure the infant in the seat in the best way possible. However, since they are not attached to the car seat, in the event of a crash, the Zakys would not impede the car seat’s protective function because they would become separated from the seat. By placing a Zaky on either side of the infant, they help to get the infant in the safest position before a crash would occur.” – Meghan Bertani, M.A., CCLS, CPST Neonatal Intensive Care Unit Child Life Specialist & Certified Passenger Safety Technician Houston, TX. Quote from Nurtured by Design.
If you have a premature baby or teeny tiny newborn, read Kangaroo Care: The Best You Can Do to Help Your Preterm Infant by Susan Ludington-Hoe. The more you know about Kangaroo Care and the Zaky Hand, the more comfortable you’ll feel with your premature baby.
The Safe T Sleep Classic Sleepwrap Baby Swaddle is an alternative to the Zaky Hand, and received positive reviews on Amazon. It doesn’t replicate the health benefits of the Kangaroo care method the way Zaky does.
I’ve never had experience with either the Kangaroo care method or the Zaky Hand. If you have, I welcome your thoughts below.
If you have a newborn or premature baby and you’re moving to a new place, read How to Find a Doctor in a New City.