Approximately 10% of all births across the globe each year are premature. Premature birth statistics compiled by the World Health Organization (WHO) for the US, UK and Scandinavian countries indicates that there has been a dramatic rise in premature births over the last 20 years. This has been attributed to a number of factors including induction of labor and health problems of the Mom that effect the unborn baby. In fact, in the US, a staggering half a million children are born premature every year. Pre-term babies face great odds of survival yet we would all still prefer our newborns to be full term. Parents of preemie babies may experience the fear of the unknown and be afraid to touch, feel and caress their newborns in case they hurt them. Thankfully, a safe natural way does exist for such parents and their families to start bonding with their newborn babies. This practice is known as Kangaroo Mother Care.
Kangaroo Mother Care originated in Colombia, South America in 1979. It gained a lot of popularity and spread fast to Europe, Africa, India, Malawi, USA, France, Canada and Australia. The basis of this infant caring method is borrowed from the way a Kangaroo cares for her Joey (baby kangaroo). The emphasis is on direct skin-to-skin contact for thermal regulation of the preemie baby. Both parents can do it and it works better while seated on a reclining chair. For your baby to receive Kangaroo Mother Care, he/she there should be no barriers. The practice and the barriers that are imposed vary across the world, and are dependent on hospital policies. The infant is placed on you or your partner's bare chest, preferably between the mother's breasts. The hospital gown, a lycra band or shirt is wrapped around the baby with an additional warm light covering being placed over the top. This has been shown to be a wonderful and safe way to care for premature babies. Your baby is soothed by your warm skin and the sound you make while breathing, the sound of your voice as well as beating heart. They can also self latch and breastfeed when they want to. It,s simply fantastic and has no untoward effects.
Benefits for Your Baby
Research has established that Kangaroo Mother Care helps to regulate the baby's bodily temperature, increase weight gain and, regulate pulse and breathing. The infant's immune system also develops much more rapidly; there is less incidence of infection. The calming effect on the baby is thought to be as a result of the baby spending more time being quiet and alert (due to your breathing and heartbeat) as opposed to crying.
Benefits for the Parents
There are medical benefits for you and your partner as well. Kangaroo Mother Care enhances the bonding process. This triggers the maternal processes in your body as you as grapple with finding the meaning of motherhood when faced with a pre-term baby. Research indicates that a mother's temperature usually adjusts to accommodate the needs of her infant during Kangaroo Mother Care. It is actually astonishing to see pre-term infants peer through the wraps to look at their parent's face. In many cases, when placed in between the mother's breasts, the wiggle about to find a comfy position and react by turning their heads at the sound of her voice. Mother's who choose to breastfeed their babies experience an increase in milk volumes. Father's are able to bond with their child, which is a very rewarding feeling.
When is it Safe to Start
This method of care can be initiated as soon as your baby is born and you have been shown how to provide KMC. Its about you being the primary care giver and your confidence to KMC your baby, even with what may be many medical tubes attached. Even ventilated babies have been given KMC outside of the incubator. The newborn can be breathing on his/her own and it is also possible while the child is in a ventilated incubator. The bottom line is that it should be started as soon as safely possible due to its clear benefits and it is something that you as a parent should be advocating for in the care in your newborn baby. They want to feel your loving touch and to be held and nurtured by you.