Kangaroo Mother Care: Skin to Skin Contact Saves Newborn Lives
Posted Feb 15 2010 12:00am
It’s a very simple idea, and one that is intuitive to many mothers. My midwives did it for me, and it felt very natural. Kangaroo Mother Care is a USAID and Save the Children program that teachers mothers to place premature infants on their bare chests to act as a human incubator. This program is saving lives and empowering women, and it’s good for all babies, not just preemies.
Definition: A universally available and biologically sound method of care for all newborns, but in particular for premature babies, with three components …
1 Skin-to-skin Contact
2 Exclusive breastfeeding
3 Support to the mother infant dyad.
Skin-to-skin contact is between the baby front and the mother’s chest. The more skin-to-skin, the better.
For comfort a small nappy is fine, and for warmth a cap may be used. Skin-to-skin contact should ideally start at birth, but is helpful at any time. It should ideally be continuous day and night, but even shorter periods are still helpful.
Exclusive breastfeeding means that for an average mother, expressing from the breasts or direct suckling by the baby is all thast [sic] is needed.
For very premature babies, suppliy [sic] of some essential nutrients may be indicated.
Support to the dyad means that whatever is needed for the medical, emotional, psychological and physical well being of mother and baby is provided to them, without separating them. This might mean adding ultramodern equipment if available, or purely intense psychologial [sic] support in contexts with no resources.
This program has been especially successful in Malawi, and it should be practiced by mothers around the world. Save the Children explains:
The need is dramatic in Malawi, where too few mothers have access to skilled care during pregnancy and childbirth, 20 percent of all newborns are born with low birth weight, and more than 20,000 mothers each year bear the tragedy of their newborn babies dying.
Encouraging new mothers to practice “skin-to-skin” contact with their newborns—like a kangaroo mother keeps her baby in her pouch— Kangaroo Mother Care has already helped save lives among newborns in Malawi, especially among low birth weight and pre-term babies.
Kangaroo Mother Care was designed to reduce hypothermia—a drop in body temperature which poses a serious risk to newborns even in the warmest climates. When a baby is born, its temperature drops because babies are born wet and room temperature air is cold on their skin. Hypothermia can set in quickly unless steps are taken to warm the baby.
I’m am pleased to hear of a USAID program that is successful and working on natural methods to support mothering. USAID is not always effective, such as the program to purchase nylon nets for Kenyan fisherman that are destroying their local ecosystem.
Both of my children were placed on my bare chest when born and covered with a blanket. It was both soothing for me and my infants, and it helped promote nursing and instant bonding. It is such a simple idea that is probably ancient and been lost in modern times.