Making skin-to-skin care a reality for families in need with “ConTact”

Guest article by Professor Concepción Gómez Esteban, Universidad Complutense, Madrid, Spain, and President of APREM, one of EFCNI’s esteemed partner parent organisations in Spain.


In 2022, APREM initiated an innovative programme in Spain called “ConTact”, aimed at facilitating skin-to-skin care between preterm infants and their families as well as supporting those families when going back home. We focused particularly on the most vulnerable tiny patients, namely preterm babies who, in addition to medical challenges, faced additional difficulties due to their family’s socio-economical vulnerabilities. The name of the programme, “ConTacto” in Spanish, plays on the meaning of the word “contact”, to highlight the benefits of direct skin-to-skin care and human touch, and “con tacto”, i.e. “with dignity”, to recognise that both the baby and his/her family should be treated with respect, despite the current difficulties.

The programme arises from research financed by the National Plan I+D+i on infants born with a birthweight below 1,500 grams. Currently, 10 public hospitals from 4 Autonomous Communities, 53 volunteers, 4 family associations, the two main scientific societies in the field of neonatology, and many more professionals participate in the programme.

How it works

The programme is structured into two main actions:

  • Action A (in the hospital):
    • Hospitals get in contact with APREM as soon as they identify newborns whose families and relatives have difficulties in practicing skin-to-skin care.
    • APREM helps finance parents’ travel to the hospital if travel costs turn out to be part of the problem.
    • We expanded the programme to include term babies whose families have the same difficulties.
    • APREM provides a volunteer, called “kangaroo godmother” or “kangaroo godfather”, who is carefully selected and trained by professionals from the La Paz Hospital in Madrid. This volunteer provides skin-to-skin care to the newborn, always under hospital supervision, whenever families or relatives find themselves unable to do so. Anonymity and privacy are always granted.
  • Action B (at home after discharge):
    • Families in vulnerable situations receive professional as well as informal support from “veteran families” for the first year after discharge.
    • The support is available until these families receive official support from public services, which, unfortunately, can take some time in some regions.
    • In addition, the programme collects donations to provide financial support for basic needs (milk and fortifying, vaccines not covered by the health system, travel to hospitals, etc.).

“ConTact” also includes online training workshops for which families from all over Spain can sign up and which are taught by three professionals from public hospitals in Madrid.

The aim is to reduce the morbidity of children born preterm in families with socio-economic vulnerabilities and to improve the quality of life of the entire family. What is more, the programme wants to create a more humane hospital experience, promote quality training of professionals, volunteers, and families, and support the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The programme in action

As resources, the hospitals have 53 kangaroo godparents volunteering their time and energies. The waiting list has almost 100 more people, eager to contribute.

In each hospital, there is a person specifically responsible for coordinating the programme. Other collaborators, such as heads of unit and service, social workers, etc., as well as experts from the Spanish Society of Neonatology and the Spanish Society of Neonatal Nursing, also dedicate their time and expertise to help.

We at APREM are extremely proud of how the programme has been able to help babies and their families. Even more so, we are excited to see how the mentality in some hospitals has changed towards welcoming parents and helpers inside their NICUs. In such a short time, we have proved that collaboration is always better, and we have helped to overcome fears after COVID.

Achievements and public response

Woman behind a podium next to a panel of 4 seated speakers.

A volunteer receiving a prize at the XIII International Kangaroo Mother Care Congress. © APREM

“ConTact” has been presented at two international congresses, one national conference, and three scientific days. It has also received four awards and has been finalist for a fifth:

  • Awarded in the XIII International Kangaroo Mother Care Congress (21-24 November 2022), the world’s most important congress on skin-to-skin practice and Kangaroo Mother Care
  • TEVA Pharma’s 2023rd Health Humanizing Health Award (II Edition)
  • Award of the Ibero-American Society of Neonatology (SIBEN) for communication: “ConTact” Programme awarded for contributing to reducing morbidity in double-risk preterm babies, XIX Annual Neonatology Congress/XVII Meeting of the Nursing Chapter (28-30 November 2023, Argentina)
  • Winning project in the “Humanization, Patient and Participation” category of the II Humans Awards (November 2023)
  • Finalist in the category of “Patient Service Initiative and Public Award” in the Awards “We Are Patients” 2023


In 2023, “ConTact” had these results:

  • 265 newborns and 215 families participated in the programme.
  • 10 public hospitals, 4 Autonomous Regions participated in the programme. We expect to have 2 more hospitals from 2 additional Autonomous Regions to join.
  • 53 fully trained volunteers are actively involved while almost 100 people more are on the waiting list.
  • 9 workshops with families were held.


Find out more on APREM’s website (in Spanish):

Spanish TV channel “Tele5” broadcast a segment about skin-to-skin care and the “ConTact” programme. Watch it here (in Spanish).