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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

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Comments (8)

Excellent article. As the grandmother of 2 preemies, I have witnessed the benefits of kangaroo care first hand. Our 26.5 weeker did spectacularly.

I would argue that when kangaroo care fell out of favor, the neonatal units who responded to the Cochrane analysis were not looking at the whole picture. For the parents of a premature baby, who spend their waking hours worrying about their baby and months driving back and forth to the hospital, there is no time more precious than those moments spent holding the baby close.

I totally believe in kangaroo care!!! My grandson was born 1 poun d 7 ounces and as soon as he was able to be held this way the fight took over he is now 9 months old and 15 pounds!!! Keep up the good work all preemie units. Every study you do increases the chance for happiness to mothers!!!

My daughter was born at 24 weeks and she is now a health 11 year old. I am glad that she was born before it fell out of favor. This was a wonderful way to be able to bond with my baby when she was not able to be with me when I wasn't able to bring her home with me.

My daughter was born 9-11-04 at Arnold Palmer Hospital in Orlando at 25 weeks weighing 2 pounds and I got to kangaroo her and it was the greatest-not only did it benefit her but it also gave me a feeling of being able to something for her and gave me an opportunity to be close to her and hold her and made me stronger mentally thru this ordeal. Today my daughter is completely healthy and is 5 yrs old and is a chubby thing!! She had no bleeds in her brain but she did have nec and lost part of her intestines which was repaired at two weeks of age. Thank God for Arnold Palmer Hospital and Dr. Brian Lipman who my daughter will tell you saved her life!!! THERE NEEDS TO BE MORE PUBLICITY ABOUT KANGAROOING!!! Stephanie

Kangaroo care also has an important benefit in helping maintain mother's milk production.

This is a beautiful article. It gives a lot of hope to mothers of preemies. I for one would just die inside if I had to keep my child in an incubator for weeks. And my poor child...unable to bond, alone, not feeling my heart beat, my insides moving, my voice muffled through the walls of my womb...

I strongly advocate kangaroo care, definitely. I would do it (in as safe an environment as possible, but as normal and calm as my own home).

My brother was born very premature in a 3rd world country, by inducement without consent, followed by a birth into a hospital on strike. There was no electricity, no oxygen available(!!!!!), as soon as he was born, the attendings and nurses LEFT the hospital!
My poor scared mother was alone on a cold table, shocked, aware something was very wrong . . . why was this baby, wait, purple? Her other 2 had been pink. This one was the wrong color.
By the time she realized he wasn't breathing, she had overheard the nurses say to each other, "uh oh, there's no oxygen in the hospital".

I still don't know how he survived his first few hours. However, he did, with my mother's attentive care, prayer, and her previous birthing experiences. Also, she had been pre-med in college and since we lived overseas in a 3rd world country, we had loads of medical books.

Today, my little 'blue' brother is a tall, strong, handsome, and intelligent airline pilot. We often wonder what damage was suffered in those minutes without oxygen, the immature lungs.

It goes to show what LOVE, maternal care, prayer, and 'kangaroo care' can do. It IS effective. My brother is living, glorious proof.

I truly believe this is true. Preterm babies need all the love and physical affection from their parents and there is no better way to make them feel the love than to have them close to us every chance we can get.


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