DES MOINES, Iowa -- Parents will do anything to give their babies the best start at life, and sometimes the best medicine is something doctors and nurses can't provide.
Babies are known to arrive when they want and bring surprises.
"When they told me I was in labor, I was shocked," Jael Hoffman said. "I was definitely not expecting a second baby."
So, when Hoffman delivered her twins Athena and Kelsier 12 weeks early, she wasn't quite ready.
"I wasn't expecting it to be that early. I didn't know I had twins," Hoffman said.
They have spent their young lives at Blank Children's Neonatal Intensive Care Unit under the care of doctors, nurses and their parents.
“We are kangarooing, which is holding skin to skin," Hoffman said. "It's really good for them."
It's called kangaroo care. Experts recommend holding babies skin-to-skin for at least an hour a day, and it can be especially helpful for preemies and those in the NICU.
“We've learned over the years that holding babies skin to skin is good for families, it's good for babies, it's good for mom's milk supply," Registered Nurse and March of Dimes Family Support Specialist Linda Carter explained.
To encourage that skin-to-skin contact, Blank Children's Hospital and March of Dimes are hosting the first annual Kangaroo-athon. It's a week-long event.
"It's not a competition. It's just a fun event and a way to celebrate doing what is good for the babies and good for moms and dads," Carter said.
Families in the NICU get a ticket every time they hold their baby skin-to-skin. They'll be entered in a daily drawing and one for a grand prize at the end of the week. The goal is to encourage families to Kangaroo in the hospital, and when they take their little ones home.
"It's one of the only things only parents can do, or family members. It's not the nurses. Nurses don't do this. They just encourage it," Carter said.
It’s something Hoffman doesn't mind doing to help her twins grow healthy and strong. She said they’re “Doing really good. They are both gaining weight."
The Kangaroo-athon runs through Thursday. Friday marked the fourth annual International Kangaroo Care Awareness Day.