The NICU is a “hopping” place on Father’s Day

Walking into the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) can be scary for new parents. They see dark corners and hear alarms. This contrasts the sunny, cheery nursery they prepared or imagined at home.

So doctors and nurses do what they can make life for both parents and babies better.

“Babies thrive in this environment. It’s designed to get them stronger, and it’s good for them, but this can be a really stressful and challenging place for parents,” neonatologist Vitality Soloveychik, MD, said.

Kangaroo care models female kangaroos who carry babies until they have matured, and this isn’t just for moms. A year ago, Kaci Lowery delivered her baby, Sutton, at 23 weeks, weighing 1 pound 7.5 ounces. As a NICU nurse, she’d heard about the power of kangaroo care. Both she and her husband, Padraic, spent hours bonding with their child this way.

Padraic said kangaroo care is important for dads because it helps to grow the bond between fathers and children.

“Mothers have a bond with the child as they start to grow inside the mother, which is something fathers can't experience. This gives the dads a chance to connect with the child after birth,” said Padraic.

“Personally, kangaroo care was a very emotional moment for me, not just the first time, but every time I did it. It was awesome to be able to hold my child next to me and look her in the eyes.” 

Sutton spent 108 days in the NICU and just celebrated her first birthday.

The NICU nurses and doctor reinforce this care every day but host a kangaroo-a-thon annually from Mother’s Day to Father’s Day. This year, one doctor is not only promoting this great care, but also bringing smiles and some laughter to the unit.

Dressed as a kangaroo, he talks with parents about progress and milestones, and gently encourages them to take advantage of as much skin-to-skin time as they can.

Dr. Soloveychik admits sometimes it’s hard to keep a serious face in the costume.

NICU nurse Deb Ruff, RN, says there also are medical benefits to the baby, including increasing mom’s milk supply, helping brain development and calming effects.

“Babies recognize Mom’s heartbeat and smell. We’ll let parents hold onto their babies as long as they want,” Ruff said.

Moms and dads will hold babies this way for three hours or more time as long as their baby will allow.

Kayley Bailey, from Flora, welcomed Nash Ryan nearly two months early at 3.2 pounds and believes in the benefits of kangaroo care for her baby.

“He loves it. He’s calm and chill snuggling with Mom,” she said.

Each day she spends as much time as possible with Nash while her husband Derek continues to provide care for her other two children who are excited for their new baby brother to come home.