A new research that will be published in the December issue of Pediatrics shows that kangaroo mother care is extremely beneficial for newborn babies. The skin-to-skin contact between mothers and their babies reduces the risk of death caused by low birth weight by one third.
The meta-analysis combined studies which examined the effect of kangaroo mother care (KMC) combined with exclusive breastfeeding. KMC is a method of care usually done by the mother or the father of a preterm baby and it involves a lot of skin-to-skin contact.
The babies born prematurely and the ones who had a really low weight benefited the most from the kangaroo mother care, the mortality rates being lower afterwards. The heavier and healthy babies also benefited from the skin contact. Their body temperatures regulated, their tolerance for pain increased and their breathing improved.
The author of the study, Grace Chan, said that the skin-to-skin contact for premature babies is great for places where there are limited medical resources. She also said that in the more developed countries, doctors advice the mothers of healthy born babies to practice this type of care.
This study comes as a response to the 4 million deaths of new born babies registered every year worldwide. Babies usually die in the first month of life mainly due to premature births or low weight. Incubators can help raise their chances of life. Nonetheless, such technology is not available in a lot of countries. In the poor and middle-income countries, 99% neonatal deaths take place due to lack of technology.
For the study conducted at the Harvard Chan School, 124 studies published from 2010 to 2014 were analyzed. All the studies focus around the idea that skin-to-skin contact is beneficial and part of KMC.
The babies who were born with a low weight (2000 grams) and received skin-to-skin contact, had a major reduction of death risk (36%) and the risk of infections or sepsis also lowered considerably(47%). Their oxygen levels improved and the circumference of their head grew proving a healthier development.
68% of the studies defined KMC as long skin-to-skin contact between the baby and the mother, while only 13% included breastfeeding as well. 19% of them revealed that kangaroo mother care even resulted in early discharge from the hospital. The majority of studies (66%) recommended approximately 4 hours a day of skin contact, while only 25% recommended 22 hours. The other studies recommended between 4 and 21 hours of KMC per day.
The lead author of the current study says that while more than 20 hours are extremely beneficial, they are almost impossible to do. As kangaroo mother care is extremely beneficial for newborn babies, she recommends a reasonable amount of time, between 8 and 12 hours.
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