Kangaroo mother care: WHO-recommended approach to nurture preterm babies


July 29, 2023 | 10:10 am
3 min read

WHO recommends to spend at least 60 minutes each session in skin-to-skin contact with your baby

The vast majority of low-weight babies, approximately 97%, are born in developing countries, with India alone contributing to about 40% of this group.

These vulnerable newborns require effective solutions for their survival and healthy growth.

One such promising intervention is the World Health Organization (WHO)-backed "kangaroo mother care" (KMC), offering hope in caring for these delicate infants.

What is kangaroo mother care?

KMC is a method of holding the baby against the mother's bare chest, promoting skin-to-skin contact.

During each session, the baby is placed on the mother's chest, with just a diaper, for a few hours.

The way the baby is wrapped against its mother's chest resembles how a mother kangaroo carries her baby in her pouch, which is how it got its name.

What led to the creation of kangaroo mother care?

In the 1970s, KMC was developed in Bogota, Colombia, as a response to the high death rate among preterm babies.

Back then, around 70% of premature infants were not surviving due to infections, breathing issues, and lack of attention.

Researchers discovered that when these babies were held close to their mothers' bodies for extended periods each day, they not only survived but also thrived.

Benefits of KMC for babies

KMC offers numerous benefits to babies, including stabilizing heart rate, improving breathing patterns, and enhancing oxygen saturation levels.

It promotes more sleep time, rapid weight gain, reduced crying, successful breastfeeding, and earlier hospital discharge.

This loving practice of holding babies against their mother's chest not only nurtures their physical well-being but also fosters a strong and healthy bond between parent and child.

Benefits of KMC for parents

KMC helps parents foster a stronger bond and a sense of closeness with their baby.

For mothers, it can boost breast milk supply. For both parents, it enhances confidence in caring for their newborn.

The practice also reassures parents that their baby is well-cared for and empowers them with a greater sense of control, creating a nurturing and fulfilling experience for the whole family.

How long should a mother provide KMC?

Skin-to-skin contact between the mother and baby can continue as long as they are comfortable.

This usually lasts until the baby reaches full term (around 40 weeks) or weighs about 2.5 kg.

As the babies grow, they will show signs of outgrowing the need for KMC, becoming restless, pulling their limbs out, crying, and fussing whenever the mother tries to hold them skin-to-skin again.

Can fathers provide KMC as well?

Absolutely! KMC is not exclusive to moms; dads can also try KMC to benefit their babies.

Skin-to-skin time with the father is highly valuable. The unique touch and feel of the father's body offer a different kind of stimulation to the baby, strengthening their bond.

Just like moms, fathers can provide warmth, love, and essential care to their little ones through KMC.

When providing KMC, remember these key points:

Put away your cell phone to avoid distractions and ensure safety.

engage in KMC when you are healthy, avoid it while you are unwell.

Spend at least 60 minutes each session in skin-to-skin contact with your baby. It requires one to have clean and healthy skin without perfumes or skin issues.

Avoid smoking before KMC for the well-being of your baby.

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