Explained | WHO adds India’s decade-old Kangaroo Mother Care in its guidelines: What is KMC? Benefits to babies and mother
In a significant development, World Health Organisation has included Kangaroo Mother Care (KMC) – a decade-old method of babycare for low birthweight infants involving early and prolonged skin-to-skin contact with the mother and frequent breastfeeding, which has been the practice in India, in its new guidelines to enhance the health outcomes for babies born early.
The guidelines states that skin-to-skin contact with a caregiver – known as Kangaroo Mother Care – should begin immediately after birth, without any initial incubation period.
According to WHO, preterm babies lack body fat; many have problems regulating their own temperature when they are born and require medical assistance with breathing.
Dr. Loveleena Nadir, a Senior Consultant Gynaecologist, told The Quotes that Kangaroo Mother Care has similarities to Marsupial Care in which premature infant receives warmth in the maternal pouch & has closeness to breasts which encourages breastfeeding.
Dr. Nadir says that KMC is a very simple method as the parent needs to sit in a quiet, dimly lit room. Dress the baby in a diaper and put him/her on the mother’s chest for 20 minutes.
Wrap the baby and mother with a blanket and a robe for proper warmth. After wrapping, it will appear like a mother Kangaroo holding her baby in her pouch. Interestingly, both parents can give Kangaroo care, and the baby can also be put on the father’s chest after the mother has breastfed the baby.
Benefits to babies:
1. Babies feel calm & secure as skin-to-skin contact reduces the baby’s stress hormone cortisol & increases the levels of the ‘cuddle hormone, i.e. Oxytocin, which stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system and makes babies feel safe.
2. Kangaroo Care helps to regulate a baby’s respiration & heart rate.
3. Helps to improve immunity & reduces the risk of allergies and infections in premature infants with a poor immune system.
4. Helps infants to gain healthy weight.
5. Helps Preemies to adapt to post birth environment as the mother’s skin provides the same temperature as her womb and helps in thermal regulation.
6. Kangaroo care boosts mental development. Premature infants who received Kangaroo care showed better brain functioning.
7. Babies have fewer crying episodes.
8. Encourages breastfeeding as babies can seek out the nipple & begin breastfeeding.
Benefits to mothers:
1. Oxytocin release helps in the prevention of postpartum depression & reduces maternal anxiety.
2. Increase milk supply as hormones balance out to regulate lactation.
3. Improves bonding with the baby.
4. Increases maternal confidence & provides a sense of control.
5. Improves parental engagement
6. Kangaroo Care can be lifesaving in both low-resource settings & also in high-resource settings as the mainstay is breastfeeding encouragement.
Co-author, Dr. Loveleena Nadir is a Senior Consultant Gynaecologist and Obstetrician at Rosewalk hospital in New Delhi.