The World Health Organization (WHO) defines Kangaroo Mother Care (KMC) as a method of caring for newborns, especially preterm or low birth weight infants, by carrying them skin-to-skin on the chest of the mother or caregiver.
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The Steps for KMC
- Wash your hands: Make sure your hands are clean to avoid any potential infections.
- Undress your baby: Place your baby in only a diaper, removing any other clothing. To keep the temperature of your baby's body stable, make sure the room is warm.
- Position your baby: Lay your baby against your chest, with their bare skin against yours. Your baby should be placed vertically, with their head resting on your chest and their feet down. The baby's head should be turned slightly to one side to make breathing easier.
- Secure your baby: Use a soft cloth or blanket to cover your baby's back, securing them in place and providing warmth.
- Adjust your clothing: Wear a loose-fitting shirt or blouse that allows for easy access to your baby. You may also use a baby sling or wrap to keep your baby in place.
- Maintain skin-to-skin contact: Ensure continuous skin-to-skin contact for as long as possible. KMC can be done for extended periods, including hours at a time. You can use this time to bond with your baby, talk to them, and provide comfort.
- Breastfeeding: If your baby is ready and able to breastfeed, you can initiate breastfeeding during KMC. Skin-to-skin contact encourages breastfeeding, and this can help provide vital nourishment to your baby.
- Monitor your baby: Keep a close eye on your baby's temperature, breathing, and overall well-being. Ensure they are breathing comfortably, and their body temperature remains stable. If your baby is doing well, you can continue KMC.
Benefits for the baby
- Temperature regulation: KMC helps regulate the baby's body temperature. The mother's body acts as a natural incubator, keeping the baby warm and preventing hypothermia, which is a common concern for preterm infants.
- Improved weight gain: Babies who receive KMC tend to gain weight more effectively. The skin-to-skin contact, combined with the mother's breast milk, provides optimal nutrition and promotes healthy growth.
- Stable vital signs: KMC has been shown to help stabilize the baby's vital signs, such as heart rate, respiratory rate, and blood oxygen levels. This reduces the risk of apnea and bradycardia episodes common in premature infants.
- Enhanced breastfeeding: KMC supports and promotes breastfeeding. The close physical contact and proximity to the mother's breast encourage the baby to breastfeed more effectively. This, in turn, provides essential nutrition and immunological protection.
- Improved neurodevelopment: KMC has been associated with better brain development and cognitive outcomes in preterm infants. The comfort and security provided by KMC can positively impact brain growth.
- Reduction in stress and pain: Being held close to the mother's chest reduces the baby's stress and discomfort, resulting in less crying and improved emotional well-being.
- Shorter hospital stays: Infants who receive KMC often have shorter hospital stays, which can lead to cost savings and reduce the risk of hospital-acquired infections.
Benefits to the mother
- Bonding and attachment: KMC promotes a strong emotional bond between the mother (or caregiver) and the baby. The close skin-to-skin contact enhances the maternal-infant relationship, fostering a deep sense of connection and attachment.
- Increased confidence: Caring for their baby through KMC helps mothers gain confidence in their ability to nurture and care for their infants, especially in the case of premature or low birth weight babies.
- Enhanced breastfeeding: KMC encourages and supports breastfeeding. Being in close proximity to the mother's breast facilitates breastfeeding initiation and establishes a better milk supply. This can lead to a more successful and prolonged breastfeeding experience.
- Improved milk production: The skin-to-skin contact and the stimulation from the baby's presence often result in increased milk production, ensuring a reliable source of nutrition for the infant.
- Reduced healthcare costs: KMC can lead to shorter hospital stays for premature and low birth weight infants, reducing the financial burden on healthcare systems and families. The cost savings result from fewer days in neonatal intensive care units and a decreased need for medical interventions and medications.
- Fewer complications: KMC is associated with lower rates of common complications in preterm infants, such as respiratory distress syndrome, infections, and sepsis. This leads to decreased healthcare costs and less strain on healthcare facilities.
- Long-term cost savings: The positive outcomes associated with KMC, including improved neurodevelopment and reduced risk of chronic health issues, can lead to long-term cost savings in terms of reduced medical care, special education, and societal support services.
Who can give KMC?
Mother, father, other family members, caregivers
When should KMC be started and how long should it be continued for?
- Early Initiation: KMC can typically begin as soon as the baby is stable and medically fit.
- Continuation Until Stable: KMC should be continued as long as it is beneficial for the baby. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends KMC for infants until they reach a weight of at least 2,000 grams (approximately 4.4 pounds) and are breastfeeding well. However, in practice, KMC can continue beyond this weight threshold if both the mother and the baby find it beneficial.
- Gradual Increase: The duration of KMC can be gradually increased over time as the baby grows and becomes stronger. Initially, shorter sessions (e.g., 1-2 hours) may be more manageable, and then, they can be extended as the baby adapts and becomes more stable.
Overall, Kangaroo Mother Care is a cost-effective and evidence-based approach to improving the health and well-being of premature and low birth weight infants, as well as their caregivers and communities.
About the Author: Dr. Mario Joseph Bukelo is a Consultant Pediatrician and Neonatologist KMC Hospital, Mangalore. All views/opinions expressed in the article are of the author.