Dads kangaroo cuddle NICU joeys at Westmead Hospital on Father’s Day

Baby Jet Orr is being cuddled by dad Nijel and mum Melissa Orr looking on.

Westmead Hospital’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) has celebrated Father’s Day by inviting dads to the ward for an adorable kangaroo care session with their little joeys.

Kangaroo care is a skin-to skin bonding session for babies and their parents. Each session lasts one to two hours or longer, depending on a baby’s condition. It is provided for all parents whose babies are taken care of in the hospital’s NICU.

Parents are encouraged to bond with their babies as frequently as possible, even after being discharged home.

Neonatal nurse practitioner Krista Lowe said that it’s important to remember that the role of the dad is just as important as mums.

“It is very common for dads of prematurely born babies to feel anxious about their bonding with a little one,” Krista said.  

“Many of them are reluctant to come in and do a skin-to-skin session with their bubs, thinking it is solely the mother’s role. However, it is important for babies’ early development to bond with their dads too.”

For Nigel, early birth of his sons Jett and Owen, was as a shock. The identical twins were born at 27 weeks and have been in NICU for six weeks.

“When they were born so little I was scared. Spending time with them and seeing them grow and develop is amazing,” Nigel said.

“I read books for my boys and tell them stories about their older sisters, Ella and Grace, who can’t wait to meet them at home. Girls can’t visit, so they write letters and we read them out loud here.”

Dad Rubaiyat Kibria holds baby Zaara Kibria and Westmead Hospital nurse practitioner Krista Lowe.

Rubaiyat was not meant to become a father until November, but with Zaara’s early arrival at 27.5 weeks, he got to celebrate Father’s day a year earlier.

“I would not change anything. This is the biggest joy of my life – I still can’t believe we created something so beautiful,” Rubaiyat said.

“All these years I was looking at dads and their babies, and wondered when I’d get to celebrate Father’s day too. Now I have my beautiful girl Zaara.

“When we cuddle, I love to sing to her. I think she already knows my voice – she looks up at me and smiles. My favourite song to sing is “Edelweiss” from “The sound of music”. I think she likes it, too.”

Spending time on a father’s chest creates the bond and helps little ones to remember their dad’s voice and smell. Like this, when they recognise their dads, it makes them feel safe and calm.

Dad Nijel Orr cuddles baby Jet Orr.

Kangaroo cuddles regulate babies’ temperature, heart rate and respiratory rate. Contact also stimulates early brain development. For babies born before 34 weeks, it also helps them to prepare for breastfeeding.

“We encourage dads to take an active part in their babies’ early development. We invite them to developmental care rounds and explain about progression and capabilities at the current gestational age.

“It helps dads to feel comfortable and know how to handle their babies while they are still in NICU.”

Happy Father’s Day from everyone at Western Sydney Local Health District!