Father support for Kangaroo Mother Care amidst cultural beliefs
John Simiyu Nyongesa is a father of twins, his wife Anne Nyongesa gave birth to the twins at just 32 weeks into her pregnancy. The twin, both boys were born prematurely and weighed 1300grams and 1400grams.
The babies were born at Siboti health center in Bungoma County. Their parents - Anne and John were introduced to kangaroo mother care (KMC) to increase the chances of the babies surviving. John supported his wife to practice KMC while at the hospital and at home.
The journey was however not easy for this young family as they experienced a lot of pressure from their community members who believed that it is a bad omen to have first born twins and worse, preterm babies of the same sex.
Anne received a lot of pressure from the community to get rid of one of the babies. She says: “I always heard these beliefs but never imagined that one day I could be in the same situation.”
Story in beneficiaries own words
John says: “When my wife was 7 months pregnant, she visited a village doctor but did not find her at home. She had stomach pains so I informed other relatives and we used a boda boda to take her to Siboti hospital. We stayed there for some time and after a while I was informed by the nurse that she had given birth to twins. I was very happy.”
“I started to hear some rumours, people started saying that it was not good to have first born twins and of the same sex. The rumours reached my wife that one baby had to die. My wife was stressed and could not sleep or settle in one place. Whenever she had people talking she could wake up first, look around and look at the babies, thinking that one of the babies had died. At one time she had to be put to sleep by the nurses since she could not settle,” Says John
“I got confused between listening to the community and providing support to my family. I was sad to see my wife suffer from community pressure, but I assured her that I wanted the babies to survive,” he adds.
John says in order to provide the much needed protection for his family, he asked for support from the local church. He says he got psychological support from the priest and at the health facility, they were counselled on KMC.Gladys Wanjala a nurse from Siboti Health Centre says: “At first I thought of referring the babies to Bungoma County Hospital because of the mental condition of the mother. But when I learnt of the problem about the beliefs, I realised I could support the family to provide kangaroo mother care at the facility and not refer them.’’
‘’John was determined and really supported the wife and through him the babies have made it this far,’’ says Gladys
John says: “The nurse at the hospital was very supportive, she introduced us to KMC and taught us how to put breast milk in a cup since the babies were not feeding well. At first I thought the babies would get hurt or break their ribs when they are put in that position. But the nurse helped us and told us of the benefits of KMC
“When I put the baby on Kangaroo, the baby was close to me and I could see how the baby is breathing. Sometimes when one baby was left on the cot, it looked like it was dead but when I put both of them on kangaroo they became well and their colour became good,” says Anne
“I went to the hospital frequently and when I was busy I asked my mother to go since I wanted the babies to survive,” says John .The facility nurse said that when John came to facility he practiced KMC for a few hours with the babies, assisting his wife and mother.
The babies were discharged after 4 weeks weighing 1800 grams and 1700grams and John says they continued with KMC at home
“I want the babies to grow so that people can know that twins of the same sex can survive. I have to work hard so that the mother eats well too!” says John. While at home John helped with house work and could only manage to practice KMC at night.
Kangaroo mother care is part of the GSK funded Health Signature Programme being implemented in Bungoma County. Save the Children has been supporting the Ministry of Health to establish KMC services in Bungoma County since 2014. KMC is now being implemented in 27 health facilities.
Save the Children has conducted minor renovations of rooms provided by the county Ministry of Health (MoH) for KMC, provided basic equipment for care of the babies, trained health care workers and established follow-up mechanisms of babies discharged to continue with KMC at home. The county on the other hand has been responsible for ensuring that the KMC units are adequately staffed with sufficient medicine and commodities for care of the babies as well and food and linen for the mothers while they are admitted.
The project supports demand creation at community level which includes male involvement in Maternal and Newborn Health (MNH) issues through discussions in male barazas. In KMC, men are encouraged to support mothers who are providing KMC starting from the KMC unit. Whenever male partners come to visit their partners, they are taken through a health education session on KMC benefits and how to practice it both at the facility and at home. Men are encouraged to provide support in terms of performing other household duties as well as assisting the mother to position the baby on KMC as she attends to other duties. They are also encouraged to accompany mothers to support group meetings where information and experiences are shared.