Kangaroo Mother Care Improves Survival Rates, Health Outcomes and Bonding Between Mothers and Babies
In an effort to save more lives and improve the health outcomes of preterm and low birthweight babies, the World Health Organization (WHO) has released two new resources promoting kangaroo mother care (KMC). KMC involves ongoing skin-to-skin contact and exclusive breastfeeding, and it has been proven to be a critical intervention for the survival and well-being of premature infants.
Prematurity has become the leading cause of death among children under the age of five, with an estimated 13.4 million babies born prematurely and over 20 million born with a low birthweight each year. KMC has shown significant benefits in saving lives and enhancing the development of these small infants.
WHO Releases Publications to Expand Lifesaving Technique for Small and Sick Infants
Dr. Anshu Banerjee, Director for Maternal, Newborn, Child and Adolescent Health at WHO, emphasized the importance of KMC, stating, “Kangaroo mother care is one of the most critical, lifesaving measures to improve the survival prospects and well-being of babies born early or small.” However, implementing KMC globally requires a radical shift in how maternal and newborn care is organized.
The two new publications, a global position paper and an implementation strategy, aim to support the expansion of KMC both in health facilities and at home. These resources build upon last year’s landmark guidelines that recommended KMC as the essential standard of care for preterm and low birthweight babies, starting immediately after birth and continuing for at least eight hours a day.
KMC has been shown to have numerous benefits, including increasing preterm survival rates by up to a third, reducing infections, preventing hypothermia, and improving feeding and growth. Additionally, it fosters empowerment and reassurance for mothers and families as they take an active role in their infants’ care.
Despite these benefits, only about a third of countries have updated policies or guidelines on KMC, leaving millions of at-risk babies without access to this lifesaving technique. The new documents outline key actions to enable wider adoption, including recognizing KMC as essential care, ensuring adequate financing and monitoring, facilitating skin-to-skin contact immediately after birth, and involving parents and caregivers in decision-making and routine care.
These resources are aimed at governments, program partners, policy makers, and the broader public health community to facilitate the expansion of KMC for babies born early or small. WHO continues to provide ongoing assistance in implementing and scaling up KMC within national maternal, newborn, and child health programs.