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Parent-infant skin-to-skin contact (Kangaroo Care, KC) has recently become a method of choice in several Neonatal Infant Care Units (NICUs), where parents and preterm infants in stable condition spend a portion of their day in the kangaroo position. This article reviews research on the benefits of the KC intervention in stabilizing the infant's physiological systems, increasing lactation, and promoting parent-infant attachment. Data from our longitudinal KC project are reviewed in relation to 4 topics: effects of maternal proximity on infant self-regulation, the role of mother-infant contact in accelerating neuromaturation, KC effects on maternal mood and perceptions, and the contribution of KC to the mother-infant, father-infant, and family relationship. Findings demonstrate the positive effect of KC on infants' cognitive development across infancy. In addition to its clinical significance, the kangaroo intervention provides a unique research paradigm into central issues in early development, including maternal proximity and separation, brain-behavior relationship, the centrality of early experience, and the reversibility of early trauma. Clinical implications and directions for future research are also discussed.
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