We often have much to learn from the animal kingdom. New research, for example, now says that “kangaroo mother care” (KMC) could, in fact, improve the health of infants—particularly premature babies—resulting in higher mortality rate.
KMC is, simply, a neonatal intervention which involves long, skin-to-skin contact between a newborn and their mother. It also involves breastfeeding only (no bottles, no formula) as well as early discharge from a health facility. Studies show that this practice lowers infant mortality rates among newborns with low birth weight.
Study co-author Grace J. Chan, MD, PhD, of Boston Children’s Hospital, explains “This is a low-cost intervention that can have a large impact on neonatal health, but part of the challenge in incorporating KMC into routine neonatal care is making healthcare providers and parents aware of its benefits, as well as training them in proper implementation since many are not familiar with this practice, or may be hesitant to implement it in high-risk infants.”
The fact that this intervention is low-cost it has become more and more popular in developing countries; and has yet to really take hold in the First World.
Chan, who is also an instructor at the Harvard University T.H. Chan School of Public Health, continues, “While KMC or skin-to-skin care is particularly useful for low birth weight babies born where medical resources are limited, developed and developing countries are moving to ‘normalize’ KMC or skin-to-skin as a beneficial practice for all newborns and mothers.”
She also goes on to note that part of the research was also intended to help demonstrate the benefits of KMC to health providers and policy-makers in order to help standardize the practice.
She continues, “One of the main challenges is how to implement KMC in different settings, from NICUs in the U.S. to health facilities in developing countries,” adding too, In each type of setting, barriers to implementation need to be understood and addressed to optimize KMC use.”
Finally, Chan advises “Additional studies on KMC among full-term and normal birth weight infants, in newborns after cesarean section, and on the effectiveness of skin-to-skin contact provided by caregivers other than the mother would all be helpful understanding how different infant populations may benefit from this intervention.”
The results of this study has been published this week in the medical industry journal Pediatrics.