Holding the Ballweg Triplets, Madison, Wisconsin.

by Betsy Ballweg (mom)

Our boys came barreling into our lives on July 9 at 27 weeks, 4 days. A tad premature but thanks to the amazing NICU staff at St Mary’s SSM hospital in Madison, WI these boys have come such a long way. It has been quite the roller coaster with really high highs and really low lows but these boys are resilient and have such a strong fight in each of them. We have quite the adventure ahead of us (even though it already has been a chaotic adventure up to this point). For all the sleepless nights, the diapers full of poo, the numerous times getting peed on, and for all the projectile spit up- there is that much happiness and love and that much more snuggles. Worth every moment.

ETHAN born at 2lbs 4oz. He was Baby A and started this escapade as he was the one that couldn’t wait to meet his awesome parents and caused all the ruckus leading to my emergency C-section. He has never looked back since and like the stereotypical oldest child he was the first to reach many of the milestones- first to get off the ventilator, first to master bottle feeding, first to come home, and the first to reach double-digit in weight. He is extremely chill and content and one of the best cuddlers. He’s the brute of the three and will undoubtedly watch out for his little brothers for life.

BRYCE born at 1lb 15oz. He was Baby B and the tiniest from the get-go. What he lacks in size he’s determined to make up for in his large loveable personality. He has the infamous alarm clock cry and thrives on getting everyone’s attention, but when he stares at you with his beautiful blue eyes, you forget all about how he was screaming at 4am to “hurry up momma and get my bottle”.

OWEN born at 2lbs 2oz. He was Baby C and always the feisty, restless one since in utero. He has had the toughest road yet keeps surprising everyone at what he’s been able to overcome. He had been known to do one-arm push-ups in his isollette, but his inner strength has helped him endure several blood transfusions, fighting off an infection in his lungs a couple times, and intubation after extubation after intubation after extubation, etc. He still has a bit of a path ahead but like everything else he will overcome and thrive. He’s a sweetheart with his daddy’s dark brown eyes and long eyelashes. No wonder mom’s a sucker for this kid.

It is an indescribable awful feeling to not always be able to be with each of my babies in their most vulnerable state while they fought day in and day out, night in and night out in the NICU. The Zaky hand has provided comfort to each of my sons since they were born. Whether it would be draped over the body, laid right next to them, or even palmed over their head, The Zaky hand soothed them in their most fragile moments. Now with all three boys sprung out of the NICU and finally all home, The Zaky hand continues to provide comfort (as indicated in the pictures).

10 Point Checklist for Baby’s Safe Positioning During Kangaroo Care

Kangaroo Position (World Health Organization)
Kangaroo Position (World Health Organization)

Positioning during Kangaroo Care is just as important as positioning on the bed.  Here is our 10 Point Checklist for Baby’s Safe Positioning During Kangaroo Care

  1. Baby is between the parent’s bare breasts, and wearing only diaper (no higher than the belly button). Socks may be worn if the room is too cold. A hat is a must for babies weighing less than 1000 grams.
  2. Baby is strictly vertical and skin-to-skin/chest-to-chest with the parent.
  3. Baby’s head and spine are mid-aligned for proper breathing and comfort.
  4. Legs are flexed and in frog position.
  5. Feet are flexed and toes facing outward.
  6. Arms are flexed to each side and hands are up and by the head
  7. Cover the baby’s back up to the bottom of the baby’s earlobe
  8. Head is in midline and in lateral position and face, nose and mouth are uncovered, unobstructed, and in constant view.
  9. Parent lowers the head and kisses the top of her baby’s head.
  10. Parent is sitting up or reclined (never horizontal, or prone).

  11. Both parent and baby are being watched/ monitored during kangaroo care.
Resting in KC (World Health Organization)
Resting in KC (World Health Organization)

What is the Kangaroo Zak?

The Kangaroo Zak™ is the only device designed with the sole objective of facilitating safe, prolonged, and effective kangaroo care sessions in the NICU and post-partum.

It provides comfort to the baby and virtually eliminates the risk of accidental falls and slipping that causes dislodging of medical equipment. It also facilitates immediate access to the baby in case of emergency and is the only device in the market that facilitates hands-free holding regardless of the size of the baby.

During this continuous contact, the baby (and parent) can reach deep sleep necessary to heal, grow, and develop .

The Kangaroo Zak™ is a soft, breathable, stretchy and strapless top made with natural fibers that wraps around the torso of the adult and closes on the side with a zipper.

Two adjustable sizes are available: Size 1 adjusts to Small / Medium / Large and Size 2 adjusts to XL / 2XL / 3XL.

The Kangaroo Zak is patented and successfully incorporates ergonomic principles with the philosophy of the Kangaroo Care Method to provide the most effective environment for the baby and for the parent so that the sessions are safe and prolonged and the benefits and results maximized.

Made for babies in the hospital (babies at home can only use the Kangaroo Zak with the proper training and instructions from the professional) NICU and post-partum.

Results achieved by the consistent use of the Kangaroo Zak to facilitate Kangaroo Care:

  • Supports neurobehavioral organization and physiologic stability of the preterm infant.
  • Improve maternal breast feeding outcomes.
  • Reduce infant and maternal stress.
  • Support family centered care.
  • All the benefits of Kangaroo Care in a consistent, safe, and effective manner.

The Kangaroo Zak ™ was designed by Yamile Jackson, a PhD in ergonomics and human factors engineering and a kangaroo mother herself. Since 2010, she has been certified as a Kangaroo Caregiver Professional and is currently an instructor for the Kangaroo Care Certification Course offered by the United States Institute for Kangaroo Care.