The advantages of snuggling up skin-to-skin with your newborn is uncontested by scientists; and the good things that come from such close contact apparently continue for much, much longer than you’d think.
According to research published in the journal Paediatrics, preemie babies whose mums and dads adopt “Kangaroo Mother Care” practices with them, statistically perform better in academics, measure higher IQs, and demonstrate “preferable” social behaviour—20 years on.
The study analysed data from 441 young adults who had been a part of a mother-infant bonding trial when they were premature infants. The researchers discovered that those young adults whose parents used Kangaroo Mother Care (KMC) showed “reduced school absenteeism and reduced hyperactivity, aggressiveness, externalisation, and socio-deviant conduct of young adults.”
And for further proof, neuroimaging revealed larger areas of grey matter in the brains of the young adults who experienced significant skin-to-skin periods as babies.
Interestingly, parents reaped the benefits, too. The mothers and fathers who utilised KMC as part of their early parenting technique were more “protective and nurturing” than parents who had not used KMC twenty years earlier. The researchers hypothesise that this is down to KMC appearing to “motivate families to become more child-oriented”.
Unsurprisingly, the research team suggests that KMC be prioritised in NICU:
“This study indicates that KMC had significant, long-lasting social and behavioural protective effects 20 years after the intervention… We hypothesise that the results would be even more significant if KMC was introduced as soon as the infant could tolerate it, even in ICUs. This new knowledge must be used to extend KMC coverage to the 18 million preterm and LBWI born each year, who are candidates for KMC. We firmly believe that this is a powerful, efficient, scientifically based health intervention that can be used in all settings.”