Kangaroo Mother Care
In conversation with Dr Prabhu M
MBBS, MD(pediatrics), Fellowship in Neonatology from Manipal Hospitals
What is Kangaroo Mother Care?
Kangaroo Mother Care, which is widely suggested for babies born as preemies, is a method of holding the baby naked except for diaper and a cloth covering its back, upright against the bare chest of the parent, for skin-to-skin contact. The hugging of the baby inside the loose fitting top wear (gown, nightwear etc) of the parent, almost like a kangaroo carrying its baby, led to this ‘touch care’ being called as Kangaroo Mother Care(KMC).
How did this care come about?
Kangaroo care originated in Columbia, as a response to the high mortality rate in premature babies. The babies were dying of infection, respiratory problems and feeding problems/failure to thrive. Researchers found that those preterm babies, who were held close to the chest of their mothers for longer time, survived and thrived. This led to more studies on the topic. Today kangaroo care is encouraged across the world by healthcare experts.
Which of the parents can give Kangaroo Mother Care?
Both mother and father can give kangaroo care. The baby should be softly held against the parents’ bare chest, to enable skin-to-skin contact. When parents do kangaroo care, it is found that the bond between the baby and parents get stronger, the benefits of which are long-term.
How does the care benefit the baby?
• Stabilizes the baby’s heart-rate.
• Improves breathing
• Improves brain development
• Lowers stress
• Quicker weight-gain
• Improved oxygen saturation rates
• Protection from infection
• Increased sleep time
How does the care benefit the parents?
• Releases the hormones responsible for bonding and attachment
• Increases the production and volume of breast milk
• Reduces anxiety and depression
• Makes them experts in interpreting baby’s cues
• Increases the confidence that babies are better cared for
• Increases the family bond
Why does Kangaroo Mother Care work?
When kangaroo care is given to the premature baby, the baby snuggles into the breast of the mother and falls asleep within a couple of minutes. Researches reveal that the breasts automatically change the temperature to accommodate the baby’s changing temperature levels. That means, when the baby’s body is cool, breast temperature increases and when the baby gets warmer, breast temperature lowers. The extra sleep which the baby gets and the assistance in controlling body temperature levels helps the baby conserve energy, which re-directs the calorie expenditure towards growth and weight gain.
How can one get started?
Your doctor or nurse will assist you and give directions as to how kangaroo care is to be provided.