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'Kangaroo care' boosts preemie survival

March 29, 2010 | 11:55 am

Kangeroo The concept of "kangaroo care" for infants is appealing. Kangaroo care was described more than 40 years ago as providing newborns -- especially premature babies -- with skin-to-skin contact. Other aspects of kangaroo care include breastfeeding and early response to medical problems. Many neonatal units worldwide adopted kangaroo care, but the practice fell out of favor somewhat after a 2003 review by the Cochrane Library showed the practice had no effect on infant death rates.

However, a new study, an analysis of 15 studies of kangaroo care in low- and middle-income countries, found big benefits to the practice. Dr. Joy Lawn, who is affiliated with the group Save the Children, found a 51% reduction in infant death rates in babies weighing less than 4.4 pounds. The paper, published Monday in the International Journal of Epidemiology, suggests that several newer studies that were not included in the Cochrane analysis provide a more accurate picture of the benefits of kangaroo care.

"We are more confident than ever that kangaroo mother care works," said Lawn in a news release. "No matter if babies are born in Lilongwe, London or Los Angeles, preterm babies need extra care to survive. Kangaroo mother care is low-cost and feasible, and we now have proof it is one of the most highly effective ways to give more babies the chance to survive and thrive."

-- Shari Roan

Photo credit: Mark Boster  /  Los Angeles Times