1. Fluharty, Melissa BSN, RN
  2. Nemeth, Lynne S. PhD, RN, FAAN
  3. Logan, Ayaba MPH, MLIS, AHIP
  4. Nichols, Michelle PhD, RN


Background: Kangaroo care (KC) is recommended for infants during their stay in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) due to the benefits to infant growth, stabilized vital signs, and parental bonding; however, literature primarily explores the physiologic benefits, barriers, and facilitators to KC practice. Little is known about the context and mechanisms of KC implementation.


Purpose: This realist review is to explore what NICU policies tell us about practices to implement KC in the NICU.


Methods: Policies were obtained via email, database, and search engines. Criteria were established to review each policy. Data were entered into a database then exported for frequency counts of identified characteristics.


Results: Fifty-one policies were reviewed, which revealed inconsistencies in the implementation of KC practices. Inconsistencies include variability in infant postmenstrual ages and weight criteria, infant medical equipment in place during participation, duration and frequency of KC, KC documentation, and ongoing monitoring requirements.


Implications for Practice: KC implementation varies widely across NICUs, even with similar infant populations. Exclusion of some infants from receiving KC may decrease the potential beneficial outcomes known to result from KC.


Implications for Research: More research to understand KC best practice recommendations and implementation in the NICU is needed. Studies are needed to evaluate the duration and frequency of KC, as well as the benefits to infants and families to optimize KC in the NICU setting.