Kangaroo mother care (KMC) has been studied now for over thirty years. KMC involves skin to skin contact between the mother and the newborn, specifically having the baby positioned on mom's chest in an upright position. The concept originates from the Australian marsupial (kangaroo) which carries its baby (Joey) in a pouch for approximately four months after birth. The interaction between mom and baby means that baby relies on mom's warmth, love and nutrition.
Many studies have shown that KMC is an invaluable therapy for both newborn baby and the new mom. So what is the research saying about KMC and Postnatal Depression (PND)?
Well, back in 2007 Brazilian researchers published a study in the Oxford Tropical Peadiatrics, concluding that Kangaroo Mother Care can prove helpful in warding off Postnatal Depression. The researchers studied mothers whilst they were providing Kangaroo Mother Care and the results were stunning. Not one mother developed signs of postpartum depression during this time. That's right! Not one mother developed or suffered from any form of postnatal depression.
The World Health Organization (WHO) published an article that focused on the bonding and the encouragement of breast-feeding through Kangaroo Mother Care. With the newborn baby lying in the prone position on mom's chest, many of the typical after-birth examinations and procedures can be conducted easily, whilst maintaining that bond between newborn baby and mom. In fact in 2006 there was a new mother-To-Infant bonding (MIB) scale introduced, and compared with the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression scale (EDPS), women that scored low on the MIB scale were scoring higher on the EPDS scale. The same was true of women who scored low on the EPDS scale, where they scored higher on the MIB scale.
Kangaroo Mother Care increases the production of Oxytocin through the skin-to-skin contact between mom and the baby. This Oxytocin is what is often called the "cuddle" or "love" hormone, and it is believed that oxytocin helps to ward off symptoms of postpartum depression.
All of this is very compelling information that hospitals and birthing settings should be taking into consideration. Mothers of newborns need to be encouraged to use KMC from the moment of birth. It is common knowledge that the first hours of life are extremely important for the mother-baby bonding process. Did you know that if a newborn baby and mom are separated, there is a risk if bonding failure and that the likelihood of successful ongoing breastfeeding is reduced.
The fact that KMC requires no drugs, chemicals or other things that can interfere with the natural mother newborn relationship, and that the research has shown KMC to be very beneficial, makes it a natural option for all new mom's especially in reducing the potential for PND. Research will continue, but for now it is safe to say that all studies show KMC is a beneficial and positive for both mom and baby.