Mother’s Day Feature: An Interview with Nüroo Baby
This week, in honor of National Kangaroo Awareness Day May 15, we feature a Choices in Childbirth interview with Daniela Jensen, USIKC, co-founder of NüRoo Baby, a company that has created products to make recommended “skin-to-skin” time much easier. Pictured below are co-founder Hope (left) and Daniela (right) and their 8 children between the two families!
CiC: As two busy moms, you and co-founder Hope were inspired to create a product that would support skin-to-skin time for moms and babies. What is skin-to-skin or Kangaroo Mother Care, and is there a difference?
DJ: Technically there is no real difference between Kangaroo Care… Kangaroo Mother Care… and colloquially, the term skin-to-skin contact. They all reference the same practice: holding mom and baby against your chest for a period of time to elicit a hormone response that delivers physiologic benefits to baby and the wearer. We became certified by the United States Institute of Kangaroo Care (USIKC) which promotes the benefits of skin-to-skin, and they use the terms interchangeably. At NüRoo we created the Pocket, a hands free carrier that allows you to be skin-to-skin anytime, anywhere.
Full chest-to-chest contact between provider and baby is crucial when practicing skin-to-skin, as this is the location of the C-Afferent nerve. The outer layer of our skin, over the front of our chest, is especially sensitive and powerful. It’s packed with nerve fibers that release hormones which eliminate stress responses in the brain and body. These extremely sensitive nerves, coined C-Afferent nerves, respond only to pleasing human touch. When the nerves are stimulated, it sends a message of pleasure directly to the brain. In response, the brain produces oxytocin which initiates a hormonal cascade delivering the benefits of skin-to-skin contact.
CiC: Can you share some of the evidence out there for “Kangaroo Mother Care” for new moms? What exactly are the benefits of skin-to-skin for babies?
DJ: First, everyone can benefit, not just biological mothers and their babies. Partners and adoptive parents, for instance, also reap the benefits of skin-to-skin when the nerves on the chest are stimulated. Benefits like temperature regulation begin almost immediately, but an uninterrupted 60 minutes delivers the following:
For new moms:
- Increased milk production thanks to increased prolactin
- Faster healing (reduced blood pressure, reduced stress hormones, reduced postpartum bleeding, and increased pain tolerance)
- Decreased rates of postpartum depression
- Psychological wellbeing (more confidence and easier bonding due to oxytocin)
And for babies:
- Accelerated brain development
- Less crying/stress
- Regulated body temperature
- Improved quality of sleep
- Enhanced immune system
- Weight gain and improved digestion
- Synchronized heart rate and breathing
- Encouraged breastfeeding
It’s not happenstance that babies have certain reflexes babies – immediately after birth, unassisted newborns know to make the breast crawl; while skin-to-skin babies often kick their legs, helping to rid mom of the placenta; mothers’ nipples darken and enlarge to help babies find their way to the breast. Skin-to-skin is a basic, primal, intuitive response system to birth.
In a society where interventions are often seen as “better”, medical care providers are actually disrupting the practice of skin-to-skin unnecessarily, even harmfully. It’s great to see so many changes, like rooming-in, made to keep mom and baby together. A big misconception is that skin-to-skin only matters in the first hour after birth, however the American Academy of Pediatricians recommend frequent skin-to-skin contact throughout the postpartum period.
CiC: Can you tell me a little bit about how skin-to-skin practices got their start?
DJ: KC originated in Bogota, Columbia. In the NICU, babies lacked proper nutrition, often mothers were abandoning their children, overcrowding and shared incubators were a common sight. Given these circumstances, 80% of all pre-term infants born were “failing to thrive”. Dr. Edgar Rey Sanabria and Dr. Hector Martinez introduced a method to alleviate the shortage of caregivers and lack of resources. They witnessed a grandmother in a remote village holding her grandchild under layers of clothing and wraps tucked between her breasts on her bare skin. They commented that it was like a kangaroo carrying her joey in a pouch. They were shocked to find the babies in this village were thriving. Back at the hospital, they suggested that mothers have continuous skin-to-skin contact with their low birth weight babies to better thermoregulate and provide proper and continuous breastfeeding nutrition. Over the course of their first year, they observed a 10% reduction in the mortality and morbidity rates simply by keeping mom and baby together. The incubators were no longer crowded, and with the increased bonding fewer and fewer women were abandoning their children.
They presented their findings in 1983 at the first global conference of Fetal Neonatal Medicine. This shed light on the difference between full chest to chest contact and babywearing. To achieve the benefits of skin-to-skin, you need to have direct contact. Anything between you and the baby disturbs that nerve stimulation – even a bra. Cheek-to-chest is sweet as can be, but doesn’t deliver the physiologic benefits.
CiC: Tell me a little bit more about the NüRoo Pocket.
DJ: The Pocket goes on just like a blouse, and serves multiple functions. It’s meant for skin-to-skin, but worn over a tank or t-shirt, it doubles as a newborn carrier and is a great nursing top, too. It’s designed to fit and hold pre- and full-term babies with a no-slip pocket and support belt included, so babies are comfortable and optimally positioned. The Pocket allows for full coverage so moms who want skin-to-skin time can be hands free, making it easy to get the recommended 60 minutes into your day.
CiC: Can babies breastfeed while they are in the NüRoo Pocket shirt?
Thanks Nüroo Baby for donating a Pocket shirt for one lucky winner at our May 21 workshop, “Breastfeeding & Beyond”.