HUNTSVILLE, Ala. -- You probably know it's important to have direct contact with your newborn, but for many premature babies it's vital for their development.
That's why Huntsville Hospital is raising awareness for "kangaroo care."
Tamara Stutts is one of many mothers who didn't expect to be at the NICU in Huntsville Hospital.
"He was sixteen weeks early. So, 24 weeks, and when he was born he was a pound and 14 ounces," Stutts said.
Fifty-four days later her son weighs 3 pounds 12 ounces. His weight gain is something Stutts credits to kangarooing.
"You know, usually when I've held a baby before you're usually cradle holding it. In kangarooing they actually put that baby down in your shirt or blouse," said Stutts.
Experts said kangaroo care provides a number of benefits.
"Improved oxygen levels, regulated breathing, stable heart rate, rapid weight gain. Weight gain is obviously important obviously to the parents that does also help the baby be discharged sooner," said Tara Eslick, clinical manager of Huntsville Hospital NICU.
Lactation consultant Elizabeth Jennings said skin-to-skin contact can improve lactation.
"Studies show that the earlier you put the baby skin-to-skin the earlier they will get to go to the breast," Jennings said. "I've also seen a really significant increase in the milk production of the mother," she explained.
While kangarooing is beneficial for preemies, it also helps them bond with their mothers.
Kangaroo care is dependent on the comfort of the child. Stutts said her son will kangaroo anywhere from one to three hours. Fathers can also participate in kangarooing.