HOUSTON - Touch changes everything! That's the thought behind kangaroo care or skin-to-skin contact with a newborn baby.
A local mom started an awareness day ten years ago after kangaroo care helped save her son's life
Dr. Yamile Jackson relied on her own instincts to help keep her son Zachary alive 20 years ago. He was born prematurely. He was in Neo-Natal ICU and she was recovering from preeclampsia when catastrophic damage happened to the hospital in the Texas Medical Center during Tropical Storm Allison.
"Zachary was about two and a half pounds, and all of the equipment turned off, including his incubators, so I was able to get there and hold Zachary skin-to-skin. So skin-to-skin basically saved both of our lives," states Dr. Jackson.
She went back to her roots for this life-saving therapy that involves the bare skin of a baby on the bare chest of a parent.
"It started in Colombia and I'm Colombian so I was there when it was actually started in '78. It started because they ran out of incubators and the doctors just said, put them on the chest and I think tacitly they said, let them die there, and instead of dying, they thrived. So it is now a very researched procedure that improves vital signs of the baby, improves the brain development, sleep, feeding, breastfeeding," says Dr. Jackson.
The word is spreading about Kangaroo Care. Celebrities like The Rock and Jenna Bush have posted photos snuggled up with infants.
Realizing how important it is that ALL parents know about kangaroo care, Dr. Jackson created Kangaroo Care Awareness Day on her son's birthday. Now hospitals around the globe spend May 15 each year helping raise awareness about this touching therapy.
"So I started Kangaroo Care Day. Basically it’s one day, where it's just fun for raising awareness of this beautiful procedure in hospitals. So, the nurses in every unit, therapists, the staff just raise awareness, or take the time to educate parents. They have balloons, they have what is called a kangaroo-athon which they make up competitions on who holds the baby the most, and who is clinician who helps the babies the most to do kangaroo care," explains Dr. Jackson.
She was an engineer by trade before her Zachary was born, but she quit that job to engineer baby products that can help preemies, like the "Zaky Zak", to promote kangaroo care. It secures a baby against their parent's chest, whether at the hospital or in the comforts of home.
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation also provided her a grant to develop an app called "The Zaky" to encourage parents to enhance their lives through kangaroo care.
"We help parents, they track their kangaroo care. It keeps track of who held the baby for how long, for how many hours, and how many days, so they can see a trend, and they also have some type of competition, a friendly competition, to see who's holding the most, and we are launching it this month to celebrate Kangaroo Care Day," smiles Dr. Jackson.
She sent out posters to hospitals everywhere for Kangaroo Care Day through her businesses The Zaky/Nurtured by Design and created "brave bags" for neo-natal parents, providing them a book to read while doing kangaroo care, and bonding materials to help connect parent and child. She hopes their children will grow up to be healthy like her son.