Skin-to-Skin contact (Kangaroo care) promotes self-regulation in premature infants: sleep-wake cyclicity, arousal modulation, and sustained exploration

Dev Psychol. 2002 Mar;38(2):194-207. doi: 10.1037//0012-1649.38.2.194.


The effect of mother-infant skin-to-skin contact (kangaroo care, or KC) on self-regulatory processes of premature infants was studied. Seventy-three infants who received KC were compared with 73 infants matched for birth weight, gestational age, medical risk, and family demographics. State organization was measured in 10-s epochs over 4 hr before KC and again at term. No differences between KC infants and controls were found before KC. At term, KC infants showed more mature state distribution and more organized sleep-wake cyclicity. At 3 months, KC infants had higher thresholds to negative emotionality and more efficient arousal modulation while attending to increasingly complex stimuli. At 6 months, longer duration of and shorter latencies to mother-infant shared attention and infant sustained exploration in a toy session were found for KC infants. The results underscore the importance of maternal body contact for infants' physiological, emotional, and cognitive regulatory capacities.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Affect
  • Arousal / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Infant, Premature
  • Maternal Behavior*
  • Mother-Child Relations*
  • Sleep Disorders, Circadian Rhythm / prevention & control*
  • Social Control, Informal*