Around the world, 15 million babies are born too soon. Unfortunately, 1 million will not survive and those who do, will suffer lifelong consequences throughout their lives. They will live with physical and mental disabilities: learning difficulties, visual and hearing problems and sometimes autism.
But last month, a few days before Christmas, good news came for parents and families of preterm babies across the globe. A study conducted in Colombia by the Journal of Pediatrics from 1993 to 1996 shows that Kangaroo Mother Care (KMC) could be one way to help preterm babies, not only in their childhood but throughout their adulthood as well.
The Kangaroo Mother Care is a method that was first developed in Colombia over 20 years ago as an alternative to keeping infants in neonatal unit incubators while they gained weight. With continuous skin-to-skin contact, the baby’s mother or father sits in the ‘kangaroo position’ while the baby lays on or against the parent’s bare chest.
The new study compares Kangaroo Mother Care to traditional care and suggests the benefits of skin-to-skin contact after birth may continue well beyond infancy and into young adulthood. With 716 participants, the team of scientists looked to establish whether the documented 1-year benefits continued for up to 20 years and whether it offered a long-term protective effect against cognitive, social and academic difficulties in a randomized block of participants who had weighed <1800g at birth.
Their results suggested that the effects of KMC at 1 year on IQ and home environment were still present 20 years later in the most fragile individuals. What’s more, KMC was also linked with low school absence, reduced hyperactivity, aggression, externalization, and socio-deviant conduct.
Now, the scientific team are hoping the KMC ‘skin-to-skin’ method will be put in place for more of the 18 million infants who are born every year either premature or at a low birth weight, in the hope to reduce some of the many medical and psychological disorders created by these two conditions.
Whilst like any study, the results and application do have their own limitations, it is encouraging to see more research being done across the globe in an attempt to find new and progressive ways of caring for preterm babies.
To read more about this study, please follow this link: Twenty-year Follow-up of Kangaroo Mother Care Versus Traditional Care – December 2016