A Father’s Love Helps Newborns Survive

Monday 10 September 2018

Victor with the baby on Kangaroo Care

When Victor got the call on a Friday afternoon that his wife was in labor, he left for the hospital assuming his family would be home after a few days following a normal delivery. However, when his wife gave birth to low-birth-weight twins via Caesarian section, it became clear they’d remain in the hospital much longer than that.  
 
“We were expecting twins, but we were shocked that they were underweight,” he said in the recently opened Kangaroo Father Care room at Mbagathi Hospital in
Kenya.

The small room is a space where fathers can stay and support their wives outside of normal visiting hours. It is an important addition, considering complicated deliveries can keep mothers away from their support systems at home for extended periods of time.

Just the day before, nurses introduced Victor to Kangaroo Care (KMC,) and he was taking to it like a natural. Victor’s 5-day-old daughter was wrapped on his bare chest in Kangaroo position while the other twin, a son, received treatment for jaundice in the nursery.

With KMC, the skin-to-skin contact promotes weight gain by regulating the baby’s heartbeat and temperature as well as encouraging breastfeeding. It is an effective approach to newborn care that Save the Children supports in seven Nairobi hospitals thanks to a grant given in 2016 by Reds Nose Day. By training hospital staff on how to incorporate KMC into its curriculum, as well as providing the space and supplies to deliver the program, we aim to reach approximately 4,000 babies with this low-cost, lifesaving intervention.

Victor supports his wife with Kangaroo Mother Care
It is not common to find a Kenyan father involved in childcare, but the unexpected C-section left Victor’s wife unable to perform KMC in the critical first days of his child’s life. He is enthusiastic to support his wife in doing whatever it takes to return home from the hospital as a healthy family of four.

“Some would say this is a woman’s affair, but I can tell them this is not [only] a woman’s affair,” Victor said, admitting that his friends teased him when he told them he was doing Kangaroo Care. However, he does not dwell on it. “I don’t care about that,” he said proudly. “What I need to do now is take care of the child and the mother.”

Victor is thrilled to play such an instrumental role in his daughter’s development during her first days of life. “I was more than happy,” he said of holding his daughter in Kangaroo position for the first time. “Very happy to be together with my child and have her on my chest.”The bonding aspect is what Victor is especially grateful for, and having her so close has helped him become more in-tune to her needs. “With Kangaroo, it is just you and the child. And when the child cries, you know what you are supposed to do.”

As for the men in his community, Victor has a message for them: “What I can tell the fathers out there is that they should embrace Kangaroo Care because it will make you bond with the child directly,” he said, adding that helping babies survive is not just a mother’s responsibility. “The experience is very wholesome.”