‘Kangaroo care’ can help premature babies: Study

Team HTV Dec 28 2015

Skin-to-skin contact between mothers and premature babies could help to increase babies’ chances of survival, according to a new analysis by Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and Boston Children’s Hospital.

Together the teams looked at studies which had researched the effect of ‘kangaroo mother care’ (KMC) on the health of newborns in the first few days of life.

Kangaroo mother care is skin-to-skin contact between mother and baby, with mothers holding the baby to the chest, and is often practiced along with breastfeeding.

In the analysis, funded by Saving Newborn Lives initiative (SNL) of Save the Children, the team looked 124 studies published between 2000 and 2014 that researched skin-to-skin contact. Some studies also looked at and included breastfeeding as part of their definition of KMC.

The team found that the most significant reduction in mortality rates was between premature and low birth weight babies. Newborns who weighed less than 2000 grams (4.4 pounds) and received KMC showed a 36per cent reduction in mortality and 47per cent lower risk of major infection, including the serious blood infection sepsis.

There were also benefits for full term and heavier birth weight babies, with those that received KMC showing higher oxygen levels, better temperature regulation and pain tolerance, and increased head circumference growth.

KMC also increased the likelihood that mothers would breastfeed by 50per cent.

Although the results were fairly consistent across low-, middle— and high-income countries, high-income and developed countries also have access to modern health technologies such as incubators to help improve mortality rates in high-risk babies. Such technology however, is not readily available in low— and middle— income countries, where 99per cent of all neonatal deaths occur, the authors outlined. KMC can therefore be of particular importance in such areas, as well as also being an effective treatment in developed countries.

“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,” commented senior author Grace Chan, an instructor at Harvard Chan School and a faculty member at Boston Children’s Hospital.

2013 research published in the Journal of Newborns & Infant Nursing Reviews also found that KMC offered many health benefits to newborns.

Susan Ludington-Hoe, from Case Western Reserve University’s Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing, found that babies respond more positively to their mothers than nurses, and when in their mother’s arms experience less pain and stress when receiving some medical procedures.

She also found that premature babies receiving KMC slept better, adjusted their heartbeats and body temperatures to their mother’s, absorbed immune benefits from their mother’s skin, and show improved brain development compared to those that didn’t receive KMC.

News source: AFP

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