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Premature Babies can Benefit from Skin-to-Skin ‘Kangaroo-Style’ Care

Update Date: Dec 23, 2015 10:48 AM EST

Premature babies have a better shot at survival if their mothers practice skin-to-skin "kangaroo-style" care, a new study reported.

For this research, the team examined 124 previously conducted studies on the link between this type of maternal care and babies' health. Kangaroo-care was described as skin-to-skin contact between a mother and her infant that is extended and uninterrupted in 68 percent of the studies. 13 percent of the studies defined the practice as skin-to-skin contact paired with breast-feeding and 19 percent of them defined it as skin-to-skin contact combined with breast-feeding and hospital follow-up.

The amount of time that mothers should have continuous skin-to-skin contact with their babies ranged from as little as four hours to as much as 22 hours. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends continuous skin-to-skin contact for as long as possible per day.

The team found that babies who were born with low birth weight, which was considered to be less than 4.4 pounds, had a 36 percent reduced risk of dying prematurely if they were treated with kangaroo care from their mothers in comparison to premature babies who did not receive this type of care.

Babies treated with kangaroo-style care also had a 47 percent lowered risk of sepsis, which is an extremely serious condition that occurs when the body becomes overwhelmed by its immune response to an infection.

"While [kangaroo mother care], or skin-to-skin care, is particularly useful for low-birth-weight babies born where medical resources are limited, developed and developing countries are moving to 'normalize' [kangaroo mother care] or skin-to-skin as a beneficial practice for all newborns and mothers," Dr. Grace Chan, co-author of the analysis and an instructor at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, said in the news release.

The researchers added, "Hopefully our study will provide a clear picture of the evidence on kangaroo mother care to help clinicians, families and policy-makers understand the benefits implementing this practice can have on newborn health."

Researchers are not really sure as to why kangaroo-style care is beneficial for premature infants.

The research was published in the journal, Pediatrics.

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