Kangaroo mother care (KMC) is a way of caring for premature babies through skin-to-skin contact with their moms. It’s recommended for premature or ill babies because they miss out on critical time in the womb where they would have constantly heard their mother’s soothing heartbeat and been encapsulated in her body’s warmth and safety while getting continuous nourishment and care. If a baby’s born too early it’s best if it can catch up on its development in a similar environment in order to develop as naturally as possible. KMC allows premature babies to continue growing while being fed on breast milk and soothed by Mom’s closeness, her heartbeat and the touch of her skin – the one critically important element of KMC.
It’s the skin-on-skin contact with Mom that stimulates your baby’s sucking reflex. Premature babies who can’t yet suck and swallow must be fed with expressed breast milk through a nasogastric tube. Surprisingly, many premature babies are able to suck. “I’ve personally seen a baby weighing only 1.3kg sucking quite strongly,” says Sister Sue Harvey, manager of NICU at Netcare Linkwood Hospital in Linksfield, Johannesburg. This is why many nurses in ICU encourage the use of dummies to help babies learn to suck. “The problem for really tiny premature babies is they need to learn how to coordinate sucking, swallowing and breathing, and can usually only do this between 34 and 36 weeks’ gestational age. This is why we feed tiny babies through a tube until they can breastfeed successfully on their own.”
However, according to Dr Nils Bergman, the doctor who introduced KMC into South Africa in 1995, not all premature babies need to be fed using a tube. “Although it’s often believed that babies can only suck from 35 weeks, we’ve seen babies born at 28 weeks who can breastfeed exclusively, but only if they’re never separated from their mothers.”
Another vital element of successful KMC is that babies must be stable and continuously monitored. In fact, babies can still be kangarooed while on ventilators or continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machines, another form of respiratory support. The bedside nurse is always nearby and ready to assist parents, and screens are provided for privacy.
Benefits of Kangaroo Mother Care
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