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Kangaroo Mother Care – a loving hug for the Low Birth Weight babies

Nov 17 2021 / Posted in Child nutrition


Dr. Harvinder Palaha MD (Pediatrics), Programme Director, Maternal and Newborn Health, SNEHA

 

World Prematurity Day on November 17, is one of the important days in the year to raise awareness about the challenges and burden of preterm birth globally.

Tiny babies born too soon (before 37 weeks of pregnancy) face a multitude of problems. They have a birth weight of less than 2500 G and are termed as ‘Low Birth Weight Babies’ (LBW). It is very crucial to take care of these small, helpless and compromised babies, especially at home since their mortality rates are very high.

LBWs account for nearly 30% of all cases of Neonatal Mortality.

It is a challenge to stabilize these babies after birth since their lungs are weak, and need to be fed through the IV route as their digestive system is also compromised. They are also more prone to infections, lose heat rapidly, may have bleeding tendencies and many other complications. Apart from the high-level critical care, they receive in Neonatal Intensive Care Units (NICUs), the Kangaroo Mother Care (KMC) has proven to be of immense benefit for these babies to survive and thrive.

In KMC, the preemie baby is kept in skin-to-skin contact with the mother between her breasts and covered from outside. This technique has been proven to help maintain a baby’s temperature, keep infections away, encourage breastfeeding and nurture an emotional bond between mother and baby. which helps in the psychosocial development of the baby.

Studies have proven that the mortality rates of LBWs are higher in those babies who are discharged to home. At home, the mother has to look after the baby as well as her domestic duties. The family support is largely minimal given the nuclear format of our families.  We at SNEHA realised this gap and rolled out our ‘Home-Based Care of LBWs’ programme in 2019 in the slums of Bhiwandi, Thane.

Our team identifies babies of Low Birth Weight in our coverage area of 10,000 households, counsels mothers about the importance, technique and benefits of KMC. We have also designed kits containing KMC bags, baby sheets, caps and socks to encourage mothers to start KMC without delay. Regular follow-ups are done according to a set protocol, the baby’s weight gain is ascertained and physical examination is conducted. Babies showing any complications like jaundice, breathing difficulty, fever are immediately referred to the nearest hospital.

This intervention has yielded rewarding results. Out of total deliveries in 10,000 households, 11% of babies were low birth weight (Data from April 2020 to September 2021). All of them received KMC immediately after birth which was continued at home too. The average duration of KMC was 6-12 hours per day. All babies gained weight and there was no mortality.

Our team is also training the community volunteer groups in the nuances of home-based care of LBWs, with the help of flipcharts and group discussions.

It is also pertinent to mention here that some very famous celebrities were born premature --  scientist Isaac Newton, legendary painter Picasso and former Prime Minister of Britain Winston Churchill, to name a few.

This proves that given the right care and attention, these tiny preemies can grow up to be responsible citizens of society. SNEHA is working tirelessly to salvage this very vulnerable population of low birth weight babies in the community and spreading awareness regarding their care and well-being with special emphasis on Kangaroo Mother Care.

The theme for International Prematurity Day 2021 is- ‘Zero Separation-Act Now! Keep parents and babies born too soon together’ and this year too, our team is going ahead with plans to convey this message far and wide.


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