Kangaroo care, or skin-to-skin holding, is one of the most enjoyable and beneficial things that you can do for your baby while s/he is in the NICU. When your baby is medically stable enough to be held (usually meaning not on a ventilator, without an arterial line, and not in need of bilirubin lights to counteract jaundice), kangaroo care not only helps babies breathe easier, it helps them regulate their body temperature and promotes both milk production in the mother as well as interest in breastfeeding in the baby. Talk to your doctors and nurses about when you will be able to practice kangaroo care, and prepare to fall into a deep state of love all over again.
Most hospitals in the U.S. acknowledge the importance of kangaroo care and encourage it as soon as a baby is medically stable enough to participate. If you are having trouble producing milk, pumping directly after participating in kangaroo care can be extraordinarily useful in promoting milk production (pumping before is a good idea too as you should practice kangaroo care for at least 30 minutes at a time). Your body will respond directly to the touch and smell of your baby, and your baby will naturally attune to the state of your body. Kangaroo care is not only for mothers, babies can benefit very much from being held by their fathers too. The closeness and bonding it facilitates is coupled by the baby's ability to innately learn how to regulate their body.
What's wonderful is that kangaroo care not only benefits babies in a multitude of ways, but it also feels empowering for parents and can have a very positive affect in calming the anxieties of caregivers.
If you have a micropreemie (baby born under 28 weeks or under 1000kg), it's likely that you will be told that too much stimulation could be irritating or upsetting for your baby. If you consult with your baby's nurses or speak with the on-staff occupational or developmental therapist at your hospital, you can receive guidance on how to use therapeutic touch to interact with your baby. Therapeutic touch is simply the practice of holding your baby, putting your hands on (usually) their head and their feet and putting gentle and steady pressure on their body. This helps the baby to feel contained whilst also not overstimulated.
I spent hours at my son's isolette holding him in this manner, just being with him. Although it looks very different from what one might have previously imagined of being a parent, therapeutic touch gives us the opportunity to have physical interaction with our baby, even when the baby is too small or medically unstable to participate in kangaroo care. It gives babies a sense of stability and containment, the feeling of being close to another human being even while inside of an isolette.