Department of Reproductive Health and Research World Health Organization, Geneva 2003

Some 20 million low-birth-weight (LBW) babies are born each year, because of either preterm birth or impaired prenatal growth, mostly in less developed countries. They contribute substantially to a high rate of neonatal mortality whose frequency and distribution correspond to those of poverty. LBW and preterm birth are thus associated with high neonatal and infant mortality and morbidity. Of the estimated 4 million neonatal deaths, preterm and LBW babies represent more than a fifth. Therefore, the care of such infants becomes a burden for health and social systems everywhere.

For many small preterm infants, receiving prolonged medical care is important. However, kangaroo mother care (KMC) is an effective way to meet baby’s needs for warmth, breastfeeding, protection from infection, stimulation, safety and love.

Kangaroo mother care is care of preterm infants carried skin-to-skin with the mother. It is a powerful, easy-to-use method to promote the health and well-being of infants born preterm as well as full-term. Its key features are:

  • early, continuous and prolonged skin-to-skin contact between the mother and the baby;
  • exclusive breastfeeding (ideally);
  • it is initiated in hospital and can be continued at home;
  • small babies can be discharged early;
  • mothers at home require adequate support and follow-up;
  • it is a gentle, effective method that avoids the agitation routinely experienced in a busy ward with preterm infants.

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