A premature baby, especially one with medical problems needing weeks or months of intensive care, is deprived of those final weeks or months in the womb. Instead, baby must grow in an outside womb. The problem is that outside wombs are static. They don’t move. Research has shown that a premature baby whose “womb” moves gains weight faster and has fewer stop-breathing (apnea) episodes. Specialists in newborn care have fabricated a variety of moving wombs, such as oscillating waterbeds.
A group of newborn-care specialists in South America made an ingenious discovery. Some hospitals could not afford incubators and all the technology needed to care for prematures. They were forced to use the mother. These preemies were wrapped around their mothers in a sling like wrap, a custom called “packing.” To everyone’s amazement, the babies thrived as well as, or even better than, the technologically cared-for babies.
The researchers concluded that the close proximity to mother helped the babies thrive. Being close to mother entices baby to feed more frequently. Mother’s warmth kept the baby warm; mother’s movement calmed the baby, enabling the baby to divert energy from crying to growing. Mother’s breathing movements stimulated baby’s breathing, so that these babies had fewer stop-breathing episodes. Mother acted as sort of a respiratory pacemaker for baby’s breathing.
As soon as a premature baby no longer needs oxygen and intravenous therapy and enters the growing phase, we encourage mothers to wear their babies as much as possible, a practice called “kangaroo care”.