Effects of Kangaroo Care in preterm infants

Date of Completion

January 2003


Education, Educational Psychology|Health Sciences, Nursing




This dissertation examines Kangaroo Care (KC) as a developmental intervention for preterm infants in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). A review of the research on Kangaroo Care demonstrates long-term benefits to the mother-infant relationship with improved infant outcomes, in addition to physiological stability during KC. The impact of KC on weight gain in the NICU is unclear, and there is little information on the direct developmental effects of KC on the preterm infant. ^ Thirty-one preterm infants reaching 32 weeks gestational age were enrolled in a randomized controlled study to address the issue of KC's effects on growth and development. They were randomly divided into two groups, Traditional Holding (control) and KC (experimental). For three weeks, their parents held them according to group assignment, documented by parents in daily journals. Staff recorded daily weights and calorie ingestion. Vagal Tone (VT) measurements were taken from the ECG pattern on their cardio-respiratory monitors while the babies were sleeping in their bed. VT is a measure of parasympathetic functioning indicating level of self-regulation, stress, and CNS development. ^ A one-way MANCOVA tested the effects of 2 different holding techniques on 2 dependent variables, resting VT at 35 weeks and weight gain, after controlling for resting VT at 32 weeks, calories ingested, and birth weight. The overall multivariate effect was significant at p = .055, Wilks lambda = .793, F (2, 25) = 3.26. In adjusted univariate comparisons, weight gain showed a significant effect for treatment after adjusting for covariates, F (1, 26) = 6.49, p = .017. This demonstrates that the adjusted daily weight gain in the KC group, 30.78 (1.36) grams, is significantly higher than the TH group, 25.8 (1.22) grams, after controlling for calories ingested, birth weight, and VT. Though VT showed an overall developmental increase from 1.32 ln(msec)2 at 32 weeks to 1.60 ln(msec)2 at 35 weeks, there was no significant difference between groups. ^ This and other research demonstrates KC to be an important therapy for preterm infants in the NICU to enhance growth, self-regulation, parent attachment, and infant development. ^