Ashleigh sent us a link to this New York Times article called “The Human Incubator,” which is not, as you may be thinking, about pregnancy. The article refers to the practice of “Kangaroo Care” that many parents of preemies know well:
In Rey’s system, a mother of a preemie puts the baby on her exposed chest, dressed only in a diaper and sometimes a cap, in an upright or semi-upright position. The baby is strapped in by a scarf or other cloth sling supporting its bottom, and all but its head is covered by mom’s shirt. The mother keeps the baby like that, skin-to-skin, as much as possible, even sleeping in a reclining chair. Fathers and other relatives or friends can wear the baby as well to give the mother a break. Even very premature infants can go home with their families (with regular follow-up visits) once they are stable and their mothers are given training.
The babies stay warm, their own temperature regulated by the sympathetic biological responses that occur when mother and infant are in close physical contact. The mother’s breasts, in fact, heat up or cool down depending on what the baby needs. The upright position helps prevent reflux and apnea. Feeling the mother’s breathing and heartbeat helps the babies to stabilize their own heart and respiratory rates. They sleep more. They can breastfeed at will, and the constant contact encourages the mother to produce more milk. Babies breastfeed earlier and gain more weight.
I am a huge fan of Kangaroo Care, and definitely advocate for it — whether or not you have a preemie. It stimulates breast milk production (there’s nothing like having a baby nestled on your chest to get that tell-tell “pins and needles” feeling flowing), helps promote positive breastfeeding (Jasper was nursing well before they thought he’d be able to), and further cements the bond between mother (and father, including bio & non-bio parents) and child. Jasper still prefers to rest on me in a position similar to this.