Babies experiencing pain may react differently if they are snuggled skin-to-skin with their mothers, according to a recent study out of the University College London (UCL) in England and York University in Toronto, Canada.

The study looked at how babies responded to pain while their heels were pricked for blood sampling, as reported in a UCL press release. Babies who were snuggled with direct skin-to-skin contact showed a “dampened” response to pain, compared to babies who were not held.

Kangaroo care

Skin-to-skin contact, also known as kangaroo care, is mainly used with premature infants. The baby, dressed only in a diaper and hat, is laid on the parent’s bare chest. Both are covered with enough clothing or blankets to keep them comfortably warm. A kangaroo care session usually lasts anywhere from an hour to several hours, and the babies are closely monitored to ensure they are safe.

Premature babies cannot always keep their body temperature up by themselves, and cuddling skin-to-skin has been shown to help. Kangaroo care sessions can also help keep baby’s heart rate, breathing and oxygen levels within normal ranges.

Regular kangaroo care can help babies sleep better, gain weight faster, cry less and go home from the hospital faster. Studies have also shown that kangaroo care can support healthy brain development in premature babies.

The benefits for parents don’t stop at great bonding. Breastfeeding mothers may produce more milk for their baby. Parents may also feel less stressed and more satisfied when using kangaroo care to help care for their premature babies.

Kangaroo care can also be used for full-term babies. Skin-to-skin contact has many benefits for both baby and parents, according to Cleveland Clinic in Ohio. One long-lasting benefit may be a strong bond between parent and child.

The take-home

If your baby is in the hospital, ask the staff if it is safe to start some kangaroo care time so you can help your baby get better quicker.

If you are a new parent, ask your pediatrician about using kangaroo care to bond with your baby.