Cape Town – The City of Cape Town’s Health Department is doing its bit to promote Kangaroo Mother Care (KMC).
The care method for babies with low birth weight gained prominence in the 1970s, after achieving phenomenal results in Colombia and has been integrated into care for moms and babies at City hospitals and clinics.
KMC is a method of caring for a baby where the mother nurses the infant on her bare chest day and night. The infant only wears a woollen cap and nappy and is kept upright using a piece of cloth wrapped around the mother chest. The mother wears a shirt over the infant and covers with a blanket.
This skin‐to‐skin contact between mom and baby was first used in Colombia, South America, in the late 1970s with phenomenal success for babies born with low birth weight (less than 2,5 kilograms). Since then KMC was integrated into hospital care around the world.
International KMC Awareness Day is observed on 15 May annually, and to mark the occasion, City Health hosted an event at Nolungile Clinic in Khayelitsha to help spread the message about the benefits of care method.
"The skin-to-skin contact with the mother regulates the baby’s body temperature to the same as in the uterus, making the infant feel safe. The baby can breastfeed on demand and picks up weight much faster. KMC also provides the baby with stimulation, love and protection," said the Mayco Member for Community Services and Health, Zahid Badroodien.
Kangaroo Mother Care is critical for nursing premature and low birth weight infants, reducing the time the baby needs to stay in hospital and decreasing hospital costs.
The risk factors for low birth weight include:
- Alcohol and drugs consumption during pregnancy;
- Smoking during pregnancy;
- Mother’s poor nutrition
KMC also provides a wealth of benefits, such as increasing the bond between mom and baby, reducing mortality and morbidity rates from serious infections and apnoea, encouraging exclusive breastfeeding and decreasing the risk of neglect and abandonment.
It is the ‘natural’ way of nursing a human infant to complete the ‘gestation’ outside the uterus.
"The skin-to-skin contact counteracts the harmful effects of separation anxiety after the birth, that is believed to be a cause of behavioural disorders later in life. At the same time, the mom is empowered to play an active role in the care of the newborn baby from day one. When fathers become involved in supporting moms to practice KMC, they too improve the bond with the infant, a precious contribution to reduce rates of violence towards children.
"Health care workers should make a pointed contribution to develop a greater awareness of KMC. The community at large needs to be better informed and supportive of this practice. Nursing and medical staff must assist and encourage mothers to practice KMC," added Councillor Badroodien.
Education and awareness of Kangaroo Mother Care is being extended to all City Health facilities as part of the basic antenatal care services.