What is Kangaroo Mother Care?

Kangaroo Mother Care (also called skin-to-skin care) is an easy method of caring for a newborn (usually preterm) which requires the mother to use her own body temperature to provide warmth to her infant through the skin to skin contact.

Usually, the mother carries the newborn on her bare chest and exclusively breastfeeds them.

Who needs this type of care?

Kangaroo Mother Care was introduced to nurse premature newborns (born before 37weeks) or newborns with low birth weight (below 2500g).

Prematurity is the leading cause of all under age-five deaths worldwide. Globally, it is estimated that out of 15 million preterm births over 1 million babies die from complications annually. Among these complications that can result in preterm neonatal deaths are; hypothermia (low body temperature), poor feeding, and susceptibility to difficulty in breathing and infection.

KMC provides the infant with the mother’s warmth, stimulation, breast milk, love, and protection. In this position, the infant grows and develops rapidly than the others without this care.

Though KMC is most essential in low birth weight infants, infants of normal weight and age can also benefit from KMC, especially in cold geographical regions.

Origin of the name Kangaroo Mother Care?

The name KMC is derived from how mother kangaroos care for and keep their infants warm in a special pouch. The mother kangaroo carries her infant against her body both day and night. While in the pouch, the infant is warm, protected, and able to suckle whenever it wants.

Thanks to Dr. Rey and Dr. Martinez who first started KMC in Bogotá, Colombia during 1979 in response to a crisis with a large number of low birth weight infants, a shortage of staff and facilities, overcrowded nurseries and a high mortality rate from hospital infections.

How The Kangaroo Mother Care Is Done?

The KMC is an easy method which can be practised by all mothers with proper education from health workers. The major components are skin to skin contact and exclusive breastfeeding (for at least 6months).

It is done by placing the infant in an upright position against the mother’s bare chest in-between her breasts. The infant is kept naked except for a nappy, socks, and woollen cap. Both mother and infant are then covered by a blanket or shirt.

In this position, the infant is able to easily locate the nipple of the mother for feed. This increases the bond between the mother and the child.

What are the benefits of Kangaroo Mother Care?

According to UNICEF, KMC significantly reduces complications of prematurity and also reduces the risk of mortality by 50 percent. Below are some of the benefits of KMC;

1. Increases the mother’s confidence and bond well with the child.
2. Better maternal-infant bonding
3. It promotes Exclusive Breastfeeding.
4. It provides warmth for the child.
5. Reduces newborn death especially in developing countries.
6. It is cheaper; because fewer staff and less equipment are needed.
7. Improved fetal neurological and behavioural development
8. Improved fetal cardio-respiratory stability.
9. Infants can be discharged home earlier after mother being properly taught how to care for the child alone.

One of the questions people like asking is: “can the father also give Kangaroo Mother Care?”

Yes. In the absence of the mother, due to severe illness or severe skin infection, the father is the best person to give this care.

It is very important that the father also becomes involved in the care of the infant as it helps build a bond between the father and infant.

Other family members, such as a sister or the grandmother, may also play an important role in giving KMC when the need be.

The Kangaroo Mother Care Awareness

In November 2015, the World Health Organization (WHO) recommended caring for premature infants using The Kangaroo Mother Care (KMC).

World Kangaroo Mother Care, which is marked on May 15, is therefore commemorated annually to raise awareness of the importance of the KMC to newborn care.

The KMC initiative has been effective in all health care facilities, particularly in both low and middle-income countries.