The benefits of skin-to-skin contact for newborn babies are well documented. Yet few people think to share that intimate experience with siblings. A photo of a big brother giving "kangaroo care" to his newborn sibling has melted hearts all over social.
The image of the Danish boy and his dad cradling the premature twins against their respective bare chests went viral after it was posted on Facebook by the South African birth organization, Neuroscience for Improved Neonatal Outcomes (NINO).
Taking preemie babies out incubators for skin-to-skin contact is common practice in the Netherlands, as it regulates heartbeat, temperature, breathing, encourages feeding, and reduces stress. For some reason, the practice is rarely seen practiced with siblings. But it should be.
Incubators obviously serve a purpose, but medical staff should never underestimate the importance of frequent skin-to-skin contact.
Babies aren't the only ones who benefit from this interaction. Parents desperately need this early connection, too, particularly in cases where premature babies are removed and placed in neonatal units. Giving birth then immediately being told that you can't hold your baby is an acutely painful experience for moms and dads, one that can even lead to PTSD symptoms.
But too often siblings are overlooked completely. So many kids harbour insecure and resentful feelings about welcoming a new baby to the family fold. Will the new baby get all the attention, all the love? Will they be forgotten?
Some parents buy proud big brother or sister T-shirts or merch so the sibling won't feel left out. But an even better way to introduce the new baby is involving the older sibling in caring for a new sibling. Creating that bond and intimacy right from the start will surely carry over when the babies eventually are healthy enough to go home.