The holding of an infant with ventral skin-to-skin contact typically in an upright position with the swaddled infant on the chest of the parent, is commonly referred to as kangaroo care (KC), due to its simulation of marsupial care. It is recommended that KC, as a feasible, natural, and cost-effective intervention, should be standard of care in the delivery of quality health care for all infants, regardless of geographic location or economic status. Numerous benefits of its use have been reported related to mortality, physiological (thermoregulation, cardiorespiratory stability), behavioral (sleep, breastfeeding duration, and degree of exclusivity) domains, as an effective therapy to relieve procedural pain, and improved neurodevelopment. Yet despite these recommendations and a lack of negative research findings, adoption of KC as a routine clinical practice remains variable and underutilized. Furthermore, uncertainty remains as to whether continuous KC should be recommended in all settings or if there is a critical period of initiation, dose, or duration that is optimal. This review synthesizes current knowledge about the benefits of KC for infants born preterm, highlighting differences and similarities across low and higher resource countries and in a non-pain and pain context. Additionally, implementation considerations and unanswered questions for future research are addressed.
Keywords: infant; kangaroo care; preterm; review; skin-to-skin contact.