BENGALURU: A World Health Organization study, titled ‘Immediate Kangaroo Mother Care and Survival of Infants with Low Birth Weight’, done in five hospitals in Ghana, India, Malawi, Nigeria and Tanzania involving infants with low birth weight between 1.0 and 1.799 kg, has found that babies that received immediate kangaroo care (skin-to-skin contact with mother and breastfeeding), saw reduced mortality by 25 per cent, as opposed to the babies that received kangaroo care after stabilisation (conventional care in an incubator or radiant warmer).
The intervention group that involved immediate kangaroo care included 3,211 infants and their mothers, while the control group included 1,609 infants with their mothers. Neonatal death occurred in the first 28 days in 191 infants in the intervention group and in 249 infants in the control group. Neonatal death in the first 72 hours of life occurred in 74 infants in the intervention group and in 92 infants in the control group.
Among infants with low birth weight, those who received immediate kangaroo mother care had lower mortality at 28 days than those who received conventional care with kangaroo mother care initiated after stabilization.
Dr Suman Rao, Professor, Neonatology Department, St John’s Medical College, and corresponding author of the study, said usually, babies are weighed at birth and if less, they are shifted to the ICU to treat them for breathing difficulty, put on ventilator or CPAP machine, tube-fed or given IV fluids. Only after they are stabilized are they returned to the mother for kangaroo care.“However, here, the mother was kept along with the baby even when it was sick and unstable, along with a warmer and incubator. Kangaroo care was given for long periods of time, at an average of 17 hours per day. This reduced infection and mortality significantly in babies. Usually, there is a perception that the mother should not enter the NICU as she can be unclean and infect the baby. But this study changes that perception,” said Dr Rao, who is also a consultant for the WHO.
In the control group, babies received kangaroo care only for an average of 1.5 hours per day. In the babies which did not survive in both the intervention and control group, the causes included respiratory distress, infection, congenital malformation, asphyxia, etc.“Keeping the mother and baby together right from birth with zero separation will revolutionise the way neonatal intensive care is practised for babies born early or small. When started at the soonest possible time, kangaroo mother care can save more lives, and improve health outcomes for babies,” said Dr Rajiv Bahl, Head of the Newborn Unit at WHO.