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26 February 2021 - News

Kangaroo Mother Care Helped my Preterm Infants to Survive

By Marion Kwambai

In a village in Busia county Night, 34, plays with her children under a mango tree in her homestead. Her last born children are healthy triplets now 4 years old, but she explains that this was not the case when they were born. Veronica, said that she had almost given up on the health of her three children after they were born prematurely with low birth weight and she was sure they would not survive.

“Precious, was the first to be born with 1.6 Kgs, followed by Favorlyn with 1.8 Kgs and lastly my son Ratson at 1.9 Kgs. I was shocked and scared for my children and also afraid of what the society would say due to cultural beliefs associated with giving birth to more than one child in my community,” said Ms Night. It is believed that giving birth to more than one child is a bad omen, which could lead to the death of the children’s father. Because of these believes, Ms Night was abandoned by her family members and she had to rely on well-wishers to help practice Kangaroo Mother Care (KMC) on the infants.

At the hospital, the nurse in charge explained to Veronica that since the babies did not have any complications  , that she would have to practice KMC in order for her children to  be warm, gain weight and survive The Nurse further explained that their was no need for referral to a facility with incubators

“I had never heard of Kangaroo Mother Care before. I did not know how it worked but I believed the nurse because she said she was sure it would work. I was asked to wrap my children on my chest where skin to skin contact had to take place. I would hold two at a time for a period of one hour then exchange them.

According to the 2014 Kenya Demographic Health Survey in Kenya about 12% of babies are born premature while an additional 8% of babies born are classified as low birth weight i.e. less than 2500grammes. The care of small babies requires well trained staff and specialized equipment such as incubators and respirators; which are limited. The survey lists prematurity as one of the main causes of neonatal mortality in Kenya. Premature babies, those born before 37 weeks of gestation, are at risk of death due to hypothermia, hypoglycaemia and respiratory conditions.

 “The hospital staff were very kind to help with children. I am very grateful to them for emotional support because my children would have otherwise not survived without them.

Despite the low weight, the children also developed an umbilical cord infection and pus started to ooze from their navel. The babies were now at risk of contracting sepsis,  infections are responsible for the deaths of 6.5% of newborns in the world annually, according to the World Health Organization WHO).estimates 2018

“I was given a treatment for the umbilical cord of my babies and in a week’s time their umbilical cords had dried up. I was very relieved and now could focus on my children’s well-being,” she added.

 After one month and two weeks, the triplets had gained weight to 2.5Kgs and she was finally discharged from hospital.

“KMC is a powerful technique that saved my children. Right now I am a KMC champion in my community and I even teach  KMC to other mothers with the same problem,” said Ms Night.

KMC is defined as early, prolonged and continuous skin-to-skin contact between a mother or her surrogate and her preterm /low birth weight infant. In Kenya, KMC has been identified as a cost effective high impact intervention for management of premature and low birth weight new borns whose aim is to improve survival of these babies and contribute to the overall reduction of new-born deaths. KMC is the current recommended practice to care for stable preterm babies in Kenya. For babies, KMC promotes faster weight gain due to better thermoregulation and improved breastfeeding and therefore shorter hospital stay. KMC improves bonding between mother and baby and empowers mothers to play an active role in care for the newborn. KMC reduces dependency on incubators, does not require additional nursing staff and reduces cost per patient due to shorter hospital stays providing benefits for the health facility.