Kangaroo mother care: new resources released by WHO

Kangaroo mother care photo preterm baby

©DMF Othman Michuzi

Kangaroo mother care (KMC) significantly improves survival and health outcomes for preterm and low birthweight babies, compared to clinical stabilization in a more ‘high-tech’ incubator or warmer. To support preterm and low birthweight babies benefitting from this lifesaving technique, which includes ongoing skin-to-skin contact and exclusive breastfeeding, WHO released two new resources, with EFCNI having the great honour of contributing to this landmark report with its expertise from the parent community.

Kangaroo mother care (KMC) is the care of preterm or low birthweight babies in continuous and prolonged skin-to-skin contact with support for exclusive breastfeeding or breast-milk feeding. It is recommended to be initiated immediately after birth for at least 8 hours per day, but for as many hours as possible.

Every year, an estimated 13.4 million babies are born preterm and an even higher number (more than 20 million babies) have a low birthweight (< 2.5 kg). For these small or early born infants, KMC is a critical, lifesaving intervention which improves survival, health and development outcomes, empowers parents to become powerful change agents in the care of their infants, and promotes satisfaction with their own and their infant’s care.

To help more preterm and low birthweight babies benefit from kangaroo mother care WHO released two new resources: a global position paper and an implementation strategy. These resources were developed in collaboration with a multi-country, multi-stakeholder working group and outline key actions with the aim to enable the wider adoption and implementation of KMC.

Amongst others, key actions are:

  • Governments should include KMC as part of national programmes for all preterm or small babies, ensuring it is financed and monitored. Additional parental leave and entitlements can help to provide the requisite care.
  • Facilities and healthcare providers should help ensure skin-to-skin contact for the recommended 8-24 hours a day, starting immediately after birth.
    • Mother and newborn should receive care together as a unit.
    • Parents and caregivers should be involved and supported (coaching, emotional and practical assistance).
  • Partners and family members can help in providing KMC.

The documents are directed to policy makers, governments, programme partners and the broader public health community to support KMC as the foundation of small and/or sick newborn care in all settings.

Read the global position paper ‘Kangaroo mother care – A transformative innovation in health care’ (WHO)

Read the document ‘Kangaroo mother care – Implementation strategy for scale-up adaptable to different country contexts’ (WHO)

Read new research news with further details: Kangaroo Mother Care – Global position paper and implementation strategy: Two new WHO resources