Kangaroo Care is when a mother holds her infant upright, against her chest, for skin-to-skin contact. This simple practice may hold the secret to reducing the infant death rates for preterm babies all over the world.
Dr. Joy Lawn, newborn health expert for Save the Children, reviewed 15 studies on infant mortality and found one common trend. When the tiny infants received their warmth and breastmilk from skin to skin contact with their mothers, there was an amazing 51 percent decrease in the mortality rates. This simple act could possibly save the lives of over a million infants if it were utilized by all hospitals and staff.
In low income countries the death rates for preterm infants is especially high. The largest impact of this style of care comes during the first week of life, however its benefits continue for as long as it is used. The practice has seen such great results in reducing the infant deaths rates in low income countries, such as those in Latin America, that is has become more and more popular. A documentary on Kangaroo Care, called Invisible Lives, has brought the benefits to more people by showing how it was used to care for an infant born 14 weeks early and kept alive without the use of machines.
In areas where there are no state of the art medical facilities available to care for preterm infants, this is a huge blessing. The reduced rates of breastfeeding and increases rates of infection are dropped by keeping infants close to their mothers, as well as cutting the costs that these infants can create.
“No matter if babies are born in Lilongwe, London or Los Angeles, preterm babies need extra care to survive. Kangaroo Mother Care is low-cost and feasible, and we now have proof it is one of the most highly effective ways to give more babies the chance to survive and thrive,” says Dr. Joy.
On top of reducing the death rates, using Kangaroo Care has many other benefits. The Cleveland Clinic lists the benefits of Kangaroo Care as
- Stabilization of the baby’s heart rate
- Improved (more regular) breathing pattern
- Improved oxygen saturation levels (an indicator of how well oxygen is being delivered to all the infants organs and tissues)
- Gain in sleep time
- More rapid weight gain
- Decreased crying
- More successful breastfeeding episodes
- Earlier hospital discharge
Infants in even developed countries can experience more health benefits from being held in the Kangaroo position. – Summer, staff writer
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Photo: GYB Editor Lisa kangarooing her then 27 week (790gms) son.