According to a recent review of previous studies, there is something about kangaroo mother care that has the ability to improve the overall health of low birth weight infants and reduce their rates of death.
All babies can benefit from KMC – also known as “continuous skin-to-skin care” – as it provides infants with better oxygenation, temperature regulation, and pain tolerance.
However, researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health discovered an overall improvement in health preterm and low birth weight infants, in addition to a dramatic reduction in mortality rates.
The most benefits of this practice were found in low- and middle-income countries, the source of 99 percent of all neonatal deaths occur. In these countries, health technologies needed in preterm infant care, such as incubators, are far more difficult to access, so anything else could help.
However, leading author Dr. Grace Chan, a professor at Harvard Chan School and Boston Children’s Hospital, said that although skin-to-skin care is especially beneficial in countries where medical resources are limited, developing and developed nations are also interested in normalizing KMC for all newborns and mothers.
Issued in the journal Pediatrics, the review presented a thorough evaluation of 124 studies published from 2000 to 2014 that looked into the benefits of skin-to-skin contact as a part of KMC.
Most studies also included the benefits of close follow-ups and exclusive breastfeeding in their definition of the practice. Mothers also benefit from KMC, particularly first-time moms who are most prone to struggle with post-partum depression; keeping the baby close helps relieve the PPD a lot sooner.
The review also found a 36 percent reduction in mortality and a 47 percent lower risk of sepsis or any other major infections in infants weighing less than 4.4 pounds, if they were administered skin-to-skin care.
If started immediately after birth, KMC helped the newborns experience better growth, higher oxygen levels, and lower pain measures. These babies were also 50 percent more likely to exclusively breastfeed once the mother and the baby are back home.
Kangaroo mother care gets its name from the marsupial that always keeps its babies in its pouch, and in term of humans – it means keeping constant skin-to-skin contact between the baby and the mother (or father, or caregiver substitute). Even shorter periods were found to be beneficial.
According to the researchers, the mechanisms of the KMC are likely to be the same across settings, so the practice should be used to improve the outcomes of infants in U.S. neonatal intensive care units, as well.
Image Source: Only My Health