Twins, who were born prematurely and were underweight, will soon experience their first Christmas with their parents after a rocky start to their lives. The healing power of cuddles and kangaroo care has become a big part of Johannesburg fraternal twins Aryan and Arianna Wax’s recovery, says the twins’ mom, Nourah.
“Our twins, Aryan and Arianna, were delivered early at 33 weeks, and were small babies. One was under two kilograms and the other just over,” recalls Wax, just 10 months after their birth.
The newborn boy and girl were having difficulty breathing and had to be transferred to the specialised neonatal unit at Garden City Hospital in Joburg.
How kangaroo care saved the twins lives
Kangaroo care is so named because it mimics the close contact of a mother kangaroo carrying her baby in a pouch close to her body. This is according to seasoned neonatal nurse Verna Bolton.
Bolton explains, “[Kangaroo care] has particular benefits for premature or low birthweight babies, although it is recognised as being valuable for all mothers and babies in appropriate circumstances.”
Bolton is the national coordinator of Netcare Ncelisa human milk banks.
She adds that kangaroo care has shown added benefits, including better temperature regulation for the baby, and improved cardiac and respiratory function. When a baby is nursed in this way, they tend to have more stable heart rates, more regular breathing, stable blood pressure, and better oxygen saturation levels,” Bolton explains.
“Benefits for the mother include increased production of breast milk, and both parents feel the strength of that close, early bonding experience, and the emotional wellbeing that comes with holding your child and giving them your protective loving warmth.”
Healing power of cuddles yields second chance
The twins’ father Antonio was hands-on from the beginning, says Nourah. “My husband loved the kangaroo care; he thinks it was the best thing ever. With two babies, we wanted them both to have the full benefit of every kangaroo care session, and so while I was cuddling one baby, daddy would ‘kangaroo’ with the other.”
“I was so happy to see them, and their father, Antonio, and I was so anxious about our precious babies at first. The doctors and nurses encouraged us to hold them, ensuring that our skin touched our babies’ skin as much as possible as part of their treatment. In my heart, it felt so instinctively good to be so close to my babies.”
How it works
Skin-to-skin contact was initiated by wearing a nappy that would be strapped onto the mother or father’s naked chest.
“You can feel every breath they take; you can feel each other’s hearts beating, and you get to know your baby’s unique scent. It’s like you can feel their every need. You can really connect more with your baby when you are that close, and in our experience, we felt it was excellent for bonding.”
At first, the parents would have three kangaroo care sessions a day with their babies, and later Nourah was able to stay in the hospital for a week.
“That week, I would kangaroo with my babies all day, it was wonderful, and I could see them getting stronger every day,” she recalls.
After five weeks in the kangaroo care unit, Aryan and Arianna gained weight and their breathing improved, and they were able to go home for the very first time with their parents.
“Now it’s 10 months later, and I want to thank the hospital, the doctors and the nurses for looking after our babies so well. The nurses were so involved and handled them with such care that it was like they were our babies’ second family,” says the proud mom.
Much-anticipated Christmas celebrations
“We are really looking forward to a big family Christmas, and it will be a very memorable one for us because we will be celebrating our first Christmas as parents with our twins.”
Emphasising the importance of bonding by facilitating kangaroo care is an inclusive practice that not only enhances the role of parents as co-carers, says Bolton.
“It also empowers parents and makes them less fearful of taking their baby home. It therefore helps facilitate a smooth transition from hospital to home, which we believe is a fundamental aspect of the family-centred care we provide.”
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