ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) — “Kangaroo-A-Thon” is underway at a Rockford hospital.

Mercyhealth’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) is keeping track of the hours that parents spend holding their babies.

The health group is encouraging parents in the NICU to hold their babies skin-on-skin as long and as often as they are able.

“Kangaroo care” is a form of holding a baby on a parent’s chest. It is known to be extremely important in the growth and development of babies, particularly preterm babies.

“Skin-to-skin contact allows parents to bond with their baby,” said Anna Hall, Mercyhealth NICU Nurse Manager. “Each time a baby is held they are feeling love, comfort and protection, which promotes growth and healing.”

If the baby’s condition prevents them from being physically placed on the parent, they can do containment care instead, which can be encircled holding or hand hugging. The staff will assist them in whichever method is best for their baby.

The event runs from Tuesday-Saturday.