Maternal Health | Kangaroo Care | How & Where We Touch Babies

RoseTracker| Sometimes biggest isn’t best. Technology doesn’t always make life better.  Touch is often the best healer of all for babies.

In an excellent piece The Human Incubator, Tina Rosenberg introduces ‘kangaroo care’, introduced by Dr. Edgar Rey, into the Mother and Child Institute in Bogata, Colombia.

Recognising that funds to help the poor are always hard to come by, Dr. Ray used his head in thinking about the purpose of an incubator for premature babies and also the fact that so many babies didn’t survive in incubators.

In ‘kangaroo care’ the mother wears the baby, strapped to her exposed chest, and only wearing a diaper and perhaps a cap. Mother and baby even sleep together in a reclining chair. Friends and family including dad also ‘wear’ the baby, so mom has a break.

The babies stay warm, their own temperature regulated by the sympathetic biological responses that occur when mother and infant are in close physical contact. The mother’s breasts, in fact, heat up or cool down depending on what the baby needs. The upright position helps prevent reflux and apnea. Feeling the mother’s breathing and heartbeat helps the babies to stabilize their own heart and respiratory rates. They sleep more. They can breastfeed at will, and the constant contact encourages the mother to produce more milk. Babies breastfeed earlier and gain more weight.

A study of 746 low birth weight babies found they had shorter hospital stays, better growth of head circumference and fewer infections. Their mortality rate was only slightly better. In Zimbabwe, survival rates for babies born under 1500 grams improved from 10 percent to 50 percent.

Rosenberg’s article The Human Incubator comes with another very interesting research story, this time focused on Right or left handling at birth: What impact does it have on development? via Science Daily

A team from the Laboratoire d’Ethologie Animale et Humaine (CNRS / Université de Rennes 1) studied the impact of vigorous rubbing for an hour of 28 newborn foals. 10 were rubbed on the right side, just after birth; 9 on the left side; and 9 were not rubbed at all.

Then the team sudied the foals relationship with humans 10 days later. The right-handled (rubbed) animals fled at the approach of humans much more than the other two groups.

The results were so obvious that the team will next study the effect on newborn babies.