Inside the NICU

Do you Kangaroo? An update on our Kangaroo Challenge

Many of you might already be aware of our Kangaroo Challenge that we issued two months ago to NICUs in Canada and the United States. We just wanted to share a little information about how the Challenge is doing and how a good idea can go viral in the best possible way.

Inspired by amazing events at Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital and St Barnabas Medical Centre, we held our first Kangaroo-a-thon in 2013. This year, we decided we wanted to go a bit bigger, so we issued a challenge to other units. Could they hold their own event before May 15 (International Kangaroo Care Awareness Day) and could they beat either our initial goal of 605 hours of holding, or our 2015 total of 1028 hours?

We had hoped to get maybe 5 or 6 hospitals engaged, and we had a secret stretch goal of 10.  As of today we have 31 hospitals across North America participating in the challenge, and we couldn’t be happier.

We will know who has “won” the challenge on or about May 15, but the truth is in this sort of challenge everyone wins. The babies sure win, by getting to spend all that time with their parents. The parents win for the same reason. And all the wonderful people in all of these NICUs are certainly champions, because they have all put time, effort and passion into reuniting babies with their families.

The winners will get bragging rights, something delicious (we haven’t decided what yet), and this amazing flag which was donated by our friend and all-round amazing human Dr. Jim Gray.


We will keep you all posted on the results, but for now, we would like to share this wonderful update from our friends at McMaster. They do such groundbreaking work, and the way they embraced the challenge is really inspiring.

 Our Kangaroo-A-Thon concluded at  midnight last night and was a huge success. Thank you to Sunnybrook for the challenge and the wonderful resources provided.

 Our goal was 800 hours; we finished with a total of 873 hours.

 Last year, we completed extensive education with our staff related to providing developmentally supportive care to our patients. The education focused on protected sleep, cue based feeding, and skin to skin care. Following our education, we adapted our skin to skin policy and changed how  we viewed ‘eligibility’. With this, we saw a marked increase in skin to skin throughout the unit but needed something that would further encourage skin to skin and help break down some barriers that we were seeing. The Kangaroo-a-thon was our answer!

 We encouraged our staff through further education during the challenge (a gift basket draw helped as well!) and used the challenge as a spring board for educating our parents (who also had a gift basket draw!) on the importance of skin to skin. With this education came increased advocacy from parents, and thus, increased skin to skin in the unit!! We have broken down many barriers during this challenge; here are some of the highlights. 25 weeks gestation with cardiac defects, UAC, UVC, intubated partaking with Hand Hug on day 1 and Skin to Skin on Day 2 and every day since; Post-OP on HFO with lines partaking with Hand Hug on day 1 Post-OP and Skin to Skin on Day 2 Post-OP; Grandmother performing Skin to Skin daily; new staff partaking on first solo vent shift by aiding mother to perform modified Skin to Skin pre-op of a very unstable patient followed by Skin to Skin Post-OP day 2; open neural tube defect partaking in Skin to Skin!

Again, thank you so much for your initiative on this, what a beautiful challenge!! We are looking forward to next year!!

Also, we were featured on our local news cast and thought you would be interested! 


Thank you so much to the wonderful team at McMaster for sharing their story; even before we have overall results we can say you are champions in our eyes.  We will keep sharing updates from other participating hospitals as they roll in. Until then … happy holding!


About the author

Kate Robson