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A preterm baby needs extra care, and it is natural for a first-time mother to be apprehensive about handling one. Kangaroo Mother Care offers guidelines that are designed to guide mothers through the crucial first few weeks of a baby’s life.
What is Kangaroo Mother Care (KMC)?
Kangaroo Mother Care or KMC is a straightforward and easy practice to care for newborn babies, especially for preterm infants. The method involves skin-to-skin contact with the mother, father, or a caregiver. It is a potent technique to promote the health and general wellbeing of preterm as well as full-term infants. This technique is also useful in reducing the infant mortality rate of low birth weight or preterm infants. Thus, KMC not only provides care, but is believed to have extraordinary benefits for infants by providing basic survival needs such as mother’s warmth, breast milk, stimulation, and protection.
What Are the Essential Components of KMC?
Kangaroo mother care has three essential components:
1. Skin-To-Skin Contact or Kangaroo Position: Kangaroo position involves the infant coming in skin-to-skin contact with the mother. The infant is placed on the mother’s chest, between her breasts. The primary feature of KMC is early, prolonged, and continuous contact between the mother and her baby.
2. Exclusive Breastfeeding or Kangaroo Nutrition: Kangaroo nutrition involves exclusive breastfeeding for the baby. The direct skin-to-skin contact helps in the production of breast milk, and it also helps the baby to suckle better, because of easy accessibility to the mother’s breasts. However, in some cases, the baby may be fed expressed breast milk. The direct skin contact also helps strengthen the bond between the mother and her baby.
3. Support to the Mother and the Baby Or Kangaroo Support: Kangaroo support involves providing medical, physical, or emotional support to the mother and the baby without separating them.
When Is KMC Care Needed?
Kangaroo Mother Care is needed to provide care and protection to the newborn baby, so that the baby may heal and grow naturally. Kangaroo care was initially practised for low birth weight and preterm or premature babies. However, this technique is beneficial for all infants as it ensures that necessities like the mother’s warmth, protection, and breast milk are given to the baby. So, KMC may be practised in the following cases:
- For premature or low birth weight babies in neonatal care
- For low birth weight and full-term babies
- For full-term babies or infants who are separated from their mothers due to some medical reasons
- To establish breastfeeding and a good milk supply.
What Are the Benefits of Kangaroo Care?
Following are some of the advantages of Kangaroo Mother Care:
1. Better Adaptation to the Environment: Premature babies face the challenge of thermal regulation. KMC helps the baby to come in skin-to-skin contact with the mother that helps in regulating the body temperature. Being in close contact with the mother makes it easier for the child to adapt to the new surroundings.
2. Helps Baby to Sleep Better: Babies, who are in close contact with their mothers, tend to sleep better than babies who are in neonatal care units. This happens because the baby is less stressed and feels relaxed in the mother’s warmth.
3. Aids Better Mental Development: KMC promotes better sleeping patterns, stabilised heart rate, and oxygenation, which results in better brain development until adolescence. There is better brain development in babies who received KMC in comparison to babies who were kept in incubators.
4. Makes Breastfeeding Convenient: Kangaroo Mother Care helps the baby to breastfeed exclusively, as the baby is placed close to the mother’s breast. Babies have a heightened sense of smell, and they tend to suckle instantaneously.
5. Promotes Healthy Weight Gain: KMC helps the baby in gaining weight. When the baby feels warm, the baby does not use its energy to stay warm. The mother’s warmth and protection help the baby to suckle better and thus, aids in gaining weight.
6. Reduces Baby’s Stress Levels: Close skin contact with the mother for a few minutes a day brings down the cortisol levels (the hormone responsible for stress) in the baby. KMC also increases oxytocin the cuddle hormone, which helps the baby feel relaxed.
7. Helps the Mother to Produce Milk: Close contact with the baby helps to regulate the hormone that helps in lactation. This promotes milk production in the mother’s body and makes breastfeeding easier.
8. Helps the Mother to Fight Postpartum Depression: KMC is beneficial for mothers as well, as skin-to-skin contact with the baby helps the mother’s anxiety levels to go down. It also promotes attachment with her baby and reduces the chances of postpartum depression.
9. Helps in Bonding With the Father: KMC is very useful in building a bond between the father and the baby. Skin contact with the father has a calming effect on the baby and helps in better bonding.
What Can Mothers Do While Starting Kangaroo Mother Care?
All mothers can do KMC or Kangaroo Mother Care for their babies. The mother needs to consider the following before starting KMC for her baby:
- Health and Nutrition: It is essential that the mother who wishes to start KMC is healthy and does not suffer from any serious illnesses. The mother should also take proper care of her nutrition and eat a well-balanced diet.
- General Hygiene: It is essential for the mother to maintain proper hygiene. It is recommended that the mother should bathe or take a sponge bath regularly, change her clothes every day, and wash her hands frequently.
- Support From Family Members: Apart from the mother, other family members may also help in KMC by spending some time giving skin-to-skin contact to the baby.
- Comfortable Clothing: The mother can dress up in a front open dress, and the baby can be dressed in a nappy, cap, socks, and mittens. The main aim of KMC is to provide maximum skin to skin contact with the baby.
What Is the Procedure of Kangaroo Mother Care?
The procedure of skin-to-skin kangaroo care involves the following:
1. The baby should be placed in an upright position between the mother’s breasts.
2. The baby’s head should be placed to a side, for easy breathing and eye contact with the mother.
3. The baby’s tummy should be placed on the mother’s upper abdomen.
4. The baby’s arms and legs should be folded.
5. A sling or a binder should support the baby’s bottom.
Kangaroo Mother Care is very effective for the baby’s overall development and wellbeing. It can be started soon after birth and can be easily practised at home too. The KMC can go on as long as the mother, and the baby feels comfortable. If the baby wriggles and feels uncomfortable at any time when the mother tries skin-to-skin contact, KMC can be stopped. Any concerns or doubts about Kangaroo Mother Care can be discussed with your doctor. It is recommended to seek professional medical help to know about the correct procedure of KMC.
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