Skin-to-skin (kangaroo) care, respiratory control, and thermoregulation

J Pediatr. 2001 Feb;138(2):193-7. doi: 10.1067/mpd.2001.110978.


Aim: To demonstrate that skin-to-skin care (SSC) has no detrimental effects on the frequency of episodes of bradycardia and/or hypoxemia.

Methods: Twenty-two spontaneously breathing preterm infants (median gestational age at birth, 29 weeks [range, 24-31 weeks]; age at study, 26 days [range, 7-72 days]; weight at study, 1310 g [range, 725-1890 g]) had three 2-hour recordings of breathing movements, nasal airflow, heart rate, and oxygen saturation as measured by pulse oximetry (SpO(2)) before, during, and after SSC. Rectal temperature was obtained every 2 hours. Recordings were analyzed for baseline heart and respiratory rates, bradycardia (heart rate < two thirds of baseline), and hypoxemia (SpO(2) < or =80%), as well as for breathing pattern (regular vs non-regular).

Results: Baseline heart rate and respiratory rate increased during SSC (P <.01), as did the combined frequency of bradycardia and hypoxemia (from 1.5/h [0-8] before to 2.8/h [0-15] during SSC; P<.05). Rectal temperature increased from 36.9 degrees C (36.2 degrees -37.4 degrees C) to 37.3 degrees C (36.6 degrees -38.6 degrees C; P <.01). The proportion of regular breathing pattern decreased from 14% (2%-28%) to 7% (3%-26%) with SSC (P<.01).

Conclusion: SSC was associated with a significant increase in the combined frequency of bradycardia and hypoxemia and with less regular breathing. These changes were unexpected and may have been related to heat stress. Body temperature, heart rate, and oxygenation should be monitored during SSC.

Publication types

  • Evaluation Study

MeSH terms

  • Apnea / physiopathology
  • Bradycardia / physiopathology
  • Heart Rate / physiology
  • Humans
  • Hypoxia / physiopathology
  • Infant Care / methods*
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Infant, Premature / physiology*
  • Object Attachment
  • Oximetry
  • Pulmonary Ventilation / physiology
  • Respiratory Physiological Phenomena