Kangaroo Mother Care Awareness Week: 26 to 29 November 2012
In many cases pregnancy results in premature or underweight babies being born. These infants are faced with risks such as underdeveloped lungs, the risk of infection, as well as jaundice and anaemia in more severe cases. Traditionally, incubators are used to nurture premature or underweight infants into stronger and healthier babies.
Although incubators provide a safe way of treating premature babies, another method has been developed called Kangaroo Mother Care (KMC). KMC revolves around three main elements namely skin-to-skin contact, exclusive breastfeeding and medical attention without the separation of the mother and infant.
This week is KMC Awareness Week. The benefits of KMC are:
- It makes babies calmer.
- It improves babies’ breathing.
- Babies are warmer and have a better heart rate than incubator care.
- It improves brain development.
- Infant babies were found to feed better from the mother as the method requires the baby to lie in a vertical position on the mother’s chest area.
KMC has its origins in 1978 in Colombia when a doctor initiated the programme as a result of a shortage of incubators. Babies were placed onto the bare chest of their mothers and were later found to gain weight faster and be much calmer and healthier. The word of his discovery spread quickly around the world, and the technique quickly became known as Kangaroo Mother Care. Since then, KMC is producing great results in premature infant recovery.
The Western Cape Minister of Health, Theuns Botha, says: ‘We support Kangaroo Mother Care because of our special focus on the health and wellness of mothers and babies. Investing in their health is a way of investing in a better future, because the healthier our children, the healthier will their generation be. We are facing the challenge of reducing the burden of disease, and strengthening our babies’ immune systems is a certain way of reducing disease in the future.’
Dr Nils Bergman, a South African doctor specialising in KMC, says the behaviour of a baby is determined by its environment. The correct environment for a baby is the mother’s body. Dr Bergman emphasises that the baby is totally dependent on maintaining the KMC position. Dr Bergman explains that babies who are sleeping in cots three or four feet from their mothers are in a state of ‘anxious arousal’, meaning that they are stressed. This stress can influence their earliest development.
The feeling of safety for the baby is primary. Placing the baby on the mother’s chest, skin to skin, creates a feeling of safety. Also, carrying a baby skin to skin provides freedom for the mother to perform her everyday chores. This intimate connection allows inseparable bonding, deep trust is instilled at an early age, and it provides the baby with deep sleeping habits essential to the growth of his or her brain. During the first month or two of life, the emotional and social building blocks are created. The practice of KMC can only benefit the infant’s optimal development.
Premature infants face daunting odds for survival. The KMC programme has successfully helped to mitigate the risks associated with premature and underweight babies. Through KMC awareness Western Cape Government Health hopes the programme grows from strength to strength to reach more people in our communities and so doing, decrease the infant mortality rate for premature babies.