UNC NCCC celebrates third annual Kangaroo-a-thon

The event is part of an international effort to raise awareness about the benefits of skin-to-skin contact for premature babies and their parents.

UNC NCCC celebrates third annual Kangaroo-a-thon click to enlarge Julie Calacday, RN, getting into the spirit at the UNC Kangaroo-a-thon kickoff party.

Skin-to-skin contact is beneficial to newborn babies, helping them to regulate their body temperature, heart rate and respiratory function, while also building a strong bond with their parents. For babies in the UNC Newborn Critical Care Center (NCCC), this contact can have a powerful impact on their recovery.

Started in 2012 by the March of Dimes, the Kangaroo-a-Thon is an international event that encourages “kangaroo care” – holding a diapered baby between a mother’s breasts or on a father’s bare chest. This year’s event, which ran May 2-8, is the third time the UNC NCCC has participated.

“We started in 2014 in collaboration with March of Dimes to promote the benefits of kangaroo care,” says Julie Calacday, RN, who helped bring the Kangaroo-a-thon to UNC and who wore a kangaroo costume to this year’s kickoff party. “With this event we encourage nurses to teach parents about kangaroo care and let them know that it’s good for them and good for the babies.”

Because of its health benefits, kangaroo care is promoted year-round in the UNC NCCC but during the Kangaroo-a-thon, patients are encouraged to participate. Prizes were awarded at the end of the week for the largest baby kangarooed (2660 g), smallest baby kangarooed (895 g) and to the parent who has accumulated the most kangaroo hours during the week (27 hours).

Nurses also have an incentive to participate. Every time a parent kangaroos their child, the nurse is entered into a raffle to win gift cards and other prizes.

According to Melissa Robinson, RN, who organized this year’s Kangaroo-a-thon, kangaroo care can play an important role in helping parents with a child in the NCCC bond with their new baby.

“Bonding can be difficult when you have a baby that’s here and you can’t take it home like you might have planned,” she says. “We try to encourage getting these fragile babies out of bed—where normally the instinct might be to leave them alone and not touch them—as a way for parents to connect with the baby.”

In addition to benefits for the babies, kangaroo care can also be good for the mother, says Robinson.

“Skin to skin contact can increase the mother’s oxytocin levels, which can not only improve the mother’s mood and help prevent postpartum depression — something that mothers with babies in the NCCC experience at a higher rate – it can also help with lactation. It’s one of the reasons we like to organize our kangaroo-a-thon events around mother’s day.”  

May 15th marks the fifth annual International Kangaroo Care Awareness Day.

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