Kangaroo Mother Care … helping mothers and babies to bond
By Pauline Njoroge
Grace Kyalo, 24 is a mother of three children. All her babies were born before their time. Her first baby was born in the year 2015, weighing 1690grams. She says the baby was placed in an incubator for two weeks until he gained weight.
In April 2017, Kyalo gave birth to a set of twins when she was just 38 weeks into pregnancy. The twins were both premature and weighed 1600 grams and 1400 grams. Both babies were initially diagnosed with Jaundice and had to stay in the incubator for eight days after which they were introduced to Kangaroo Mother Care (KMC).
Comparing her experience of 2015 and that of 2017, Grace says: “In 2015, Kangaroo Mother Care was not there, and when my baby was in the incubator for two weeks, I was very worried and scared. My baby was small and it was hard staying away from him. With my twins, the KMC experience was very good; when I put my babies in the KMC position, I felt that they are my own babies and knew they would survive. I was not worried.”
Story in beneficiaries own words
“I was eight months pregnant when I delivered the twins. The water came out at 1:00pm and I went to Mathare North hospital where I used to attend my ante natal visits. I was referred to Mbagathi hospital. On arrival, the doctors advised that I have a caesarian section. After delivery, I lost consciousness and did not see my babies until the next morning. However, when I saw them, they were too small! I was scared.” says Grace.
According to Mary a nurse at the KMC ward the twins were diagnosed with Jaundice and put on phototherapy. “When my babies were in the incubator, they lost a lot of weight and dropped to 1370grams and 1380grams. When they recovered, I was introduced to KMC.”
“Within two weeks after starting KMC, my babies’ weight increased to 1750grams and 1720 grams. We were discharged from the facility and I was very happy,” she adds.
Remembering her first experience, Grace says: “If KMC was there, my first child would not have stayed for long in the incubator. I remember he gained very little weight while in the incubator! ”
Mary, a nurse in the newborn unit in Mbagathi says “I have been working in this newborn unit for 8 years. Before KMC was started, newborn mortality was too high; the mothers also got stressed when their babies were in the incubators and they would not produce enough milk. As a result, the facility used to purchase a lot of formula milk for the babies. Now, after introducing KMC, no baby has died while in the KMC position and we buy very few formula milk. KMC has also worked in reducing incubator congestion in our newborn unit.”
“We encourage men to support mothers who are providing KMC. Whenever male partners come to visit, we take them through a health education session on KMC benefits and how to practice it both at the facility and at home. We request them to support with other household duties and encourage them to accompany mothers to support group meetings where information and experiences are shared,” Mary adds.
Kyalo, Grace’s husband says: “The babies have grown fast and now I can hold them. Grace told me about KMC and when she puts the babies on KMC, I help her with the house chores like cooking.”
Family planning is also important
Mary says she advises mothers to ensure they use family planning methods so as to give the babies space to grow well. “Before mothers are discharged, I ask them to ensure that after six weeks, when the babies are coming for immunization, they go for family planning services. This allows them to give adequate attention and care to the babies while they are still young,” says Mary.
Kangaroo mother care (KMC) is a key component of care for preterm and low birth weight babies. It refers to the practice of providing continuous skin-to-skin contact between mother and baby, exclusive breastfeeding and early discharge from the hospital.
The KMC project funded by Comic Relief has an overall goal of strengthening the skills and capacity of health providers in seven hospitals within Nairobi County to manage preterm babies. The project aims to reach communities with communication on the importance of caring for preterm babies. The project supports demand creation at community level which includes male involvement in Maternal and Newborn Health (MNH) issues.
Save the Children has so far conducted minor renovations of KMC rooms within 4 hospitals, provided basic equipment for care of the babies, trained 47 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.