Photo by Kyle Nieber on Unsplash

Mother swaddling preemie in sling.

LONDON — Kangaroos carry their babies in their pouches, giving them plenty of skin-to-skin contact. Now, a new study suggests human mothers who use the “Kangaroo mother care” (KMC) approach with their premature babies significantly improve their child’s chances of survival. This approach involves carrying the infant, in a sling with skin-to-skin contact.

Researchers conducted a review of numerous large multi-country and community-based randomized trials to compare KMC with conventional care and to determine the ideal time to initiate the intervention. The review analyzed 31 trials involving a collective total of 15,559 infants. Of these, 27 studies compared KMC with conventional care, while four compared early initiation (within 24 hours of birth) with later initiation of KMC.

The findings show KMC appeared to reduce the risk of mortality by 32 percent during birth hospitalization or within 28 days after birth compared to conventional care. It also seemed to reduce the risk of severe infection, such as sepsis, by 15 percent. These benefits were observed regardless of the gestational age, weight of the child at enrollment, and the time and place KMC started.

Mother with newborn baby
(© Alena Ozerova – stock.adobe.com)

Furthermore, the study highlighted that starting the intervention early and carrying it out for at least eight hours a day made KMC even more effective in reducing mortality and infection rates. Studies comparing early initiation of KMC with late initiation demonstrated a reduction in neonatal mortality of 33 percent and a probable decreased risk of 15 percent in clinical sepsis within 28 days.

While the review had some limitations, such as potential participant bias and exclusion of certain neonates, the authors emphasized that the included studies generally had a low risk of bias, and the evidence for the primary outcomes was considered to be of moderate to high certainty.

The researchers concluded that their findings support the practice of KMC for preterm and low birth weight infants as soon as possible after birth and for at least eight hours a day. They also called for future research to focus on overcoming barriers to implementing KMC on a larger scale in both facility and community settings, as well as gathering data on long-term neurodevelopmental outcomes.

“Our findings support the practice of KMC for preterm and low birth weight infants as soon as possible after birth and for at least eight hours a day,” the study authors conclude in a media release.

The study is published in the journal BMJ Global Health.

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