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Gundersen Health System’s Kangaroo care exceeds national average

Tuesday, January 10, 2023

Gundersen Health System officials are exceeding the national average for newborn skin-to-skin contact. Skin-to-skin contact, or Kangaroo care, is contact between a newborn in a diaper and an adult caretaker’s exposed skin. Early skin-to-skin contact, immediately following labor and delivery, is a biological need for the baby and provides several benefits to the infant, including regulation of their temperature, blood sugar and breathing.

In 2022, 95 percent of stable birthing parents after vaginal delivery and their newborns at Gundersen spent an average of 90 minutes participating in skin-to-skin contact immediately following birth, more than 10 percent higher than the national average. Labor and Delivery clinical manager Katey Olson said Gundersen’s early adoption of the practice has contributed to its success.  

Kangaroo care really started to be studied robustly in a NICU setting,” Olson said. “We have had NICU providers who are diligent about staying on the cutting edge of evidence-based practice, and that helps inform care in the labor and delivery and regular postpartum area.” 

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, Kangaroo care was developed in South Africa to keep premature infants warm so doctors could release them sooner from overcrowded hospitals. It has been incorporated into Gundersen’s standard of care and has been shown to also benefit the parents through decreased bleeding, decreased perception of pain, and bonding between the parent and the child.  

If the birthing parent has requested not to participate in the practice or is unable to due to a health concern, the other parent or a selected support person may also participate. While many of the parental benefits are not the same, skin-to-skin contact with another parent or a support person can still have many benefits for the baby.  

“Bonding hormones are released in a support person the same way they are with the birthing parent,” Olson said. 

Skin-to-skin contact with a support person is also a great way to introduce the baby to germs. 

“We all have these good little germs on our skin, but babies are coming out of a sterile environment,” Olson said. “They need those good germs to populate on their skin to help prevent infection.” 

Once the child is home, there are ways to continue the practice. The American Academy of Pediatrics said parents can hold their child right next to their skin during feedings or after a bath.  




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La Crosse, WI 54601

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