Western Sydney mums and dads join marathon of cuddles for premature babies

New mum Alanah Hasick enjoying kangaroo care time with her son Harvey at Westmead Hospital’s neonatal Intensive care unit (NICU)

For little Harvey and his mother Alanah Hasick, the first six weeks of his life were a bumpy road – born at only 24 weeks, Harvey was as small as an ear of corn.

Alanah said her first cuddle with Harvey was very emotional.

“He was two and a half weeks old and his weight was slightly over 800 grams. It was scary to hold his little body, but as soon as he was resting on my chest, all my fears were gone,” she said.

Alanah Hasick is cuddling with her son Harvey every day for at least 2.5 hours

The bond between a baby and their parents can work miracles which is why mums and dads from across western Sydney have joined a marathon of cuddles – Kangaroo-a-thon – to celebrate the benefits of kangaroo care.

An hour-long session of skin-to-skin cuddles with a prematurely born baby, also called Kangaroo care, can stabilise a baby’s heart rate, improve immunity and weight gain. If cuddle sessions are consistent, in some cases it can help little patients to be discharged home sooner.

Kangaroo-a-thon is a two-week Australian-wide competition by the Miracle Babies Foundation which hospitals across Western Sydney Local Health District (WSLHD) are taking part in.

Throughout May, parents in western Sydney are being encouraged to log as many hours cuddling with their bubs. The annual event is aimed at increasing hours of brain developing, neuro-protective, attachment-building, and immunity-boosting cuddles.

Now at 31 weeks, Harvey weighs 1.2 kilos and loves cuddling with his parents.

“When we cuddle, he is in his happy zone. I can see it from his vitals on the monitor,” Alanah said.

“I am here every day, cuddling with Harvey for at least 2.5 hours and I am happy to support Kangaroo-a-thon.

“I didn’t know what Kangaroo care was until I had Harvey and I can tell that parents benefit from it as much as bubs do.”

Westmead Hospital Neonatal Intensive care unit nurse Hannah Skelton confirms the cuddles were beneficial for parents as well.

“Having your baby born prematurely is a big stress for parents. It has been proven that skin-to-skin sessions can help prevent post-natal depression and improve milk supply,” Hannah said.

“Dads are encouraged to cuddle with their bubs too. It develops a strong bond and makes them more confident in handling their premature babies.

“Sometimes the babies are not well and should stay in their humidicribs. In this case, parents can do a modified hug – place their hand on bub’s body, talk or sing to them. Any contact with their parent is important for the baby.”

Westmead Hospital Neonatal Intensive care unit nurse Hannah Skelton with her son Eli

In 2019 Hannah developed the kangaroo care policy for staff across WSLHD. It provides information backed by research and empowers staff to make the best decision in each unique situation.

“We would like to ensure all parents wanting to kangaroo cuddle with their joeys have the support of our nurses across all WSLHD facilities,” she said.

“When our little patients get healthier, they move to newborn care at Blacktown or Auburn hospitals.

“Kangaroo-a-thon is a great opportunity for us to provide our staff with the necessary knowledge to assist new parents.”

Westmead Hospital NICU staff gathered for a morning tea to celebrate the beginning of the Kangaroo-a-thon

Kangaroo-a-thon goes from 15 May through 29 May 2021 and you can read more about kangaroo care in western Sydney here.