Kangaroo Care for Premature Babies

Kangaroo Care for Premature Babies
Premature Newborn

The British Medical Journal and the World Health Organization (WHO) are promoting a method of caring for small and preterm babies. It calls for holding the baby close to a parent’s naked chest. The WHO advises “immediate skin-to-skin care for the survival of small and preterm babies.” This method is called “kangaroo care” because it copies what kangaroo mothers do with the baby in their pouch. 

In 1978, Dr. Edgar Ray Sanabria and Hector Martinez-Gomez started the technique in the maternity ward of San Juan de Dios Hospital in Bogota, Columbia. The country’s death rate for premature infants was 70% before this technique. In some locations, kangaroo care has reduced the death rate to 10%. 

Babies put into incubators may be exposed to bright lights and loud noises, and there are not enough incubators to go around in many countries. Researchers say that when the babies are held against the bare chest of their mother or father, they pick up their parent’s heartbeat and breathing rhythms. They also feel the warmth. The doctors published the results of kangaroo care in the journal Curso de Medicina Fetal in 1983. UNICEF began distributing information about the technique worldwide. 

Interestingly, both the mother and the father can provide this benefit to a premature baby. Hospitals provide wards where a parent can stay with the child. A premature newborn may take two to three weeks of kangaroo care to be strong enough to leave the hospital. Even then, parents can continue kangaroo care at home. 

People who claim that a preborn baby is not a human at 32 weeks or less have no evidence to support that claim. The bond between a mother and father and a child is necessary for the baby to survive, and no mechanical device can substitute for the care of a loving parent. 

— John N. Clayton © 2023

Reference: National Public Radio