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Preterm and low birthweight babies can now benefit from kangaroo mother care: WHO

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(Photo Courtesy: - Lancaster General Hospital)

In order to benefit more tiny and preterm newborns, WHO has launched two new materials to encourage a wider use of kangaroo mother care (KMC), a lifesaving practise that incorporates on-going skin-to-skin contact and exclusive nursing. Prematurity is now a serious public health concern as it is the main cause of death for children under the age of five. An estimated 20 million babies are born each year with low birthweights (less than 2.5 kg at birth), while 13.4 million kids are thought to be born preterm each year (before 37 weeks of pregnancy). KMC is a tried-and-true technique that has been shown to save lives and enhance the health and development of young infants. According to Dr. Anshu Banerjee, WHO's Director for Maternal, Newborn, Child and Adolescent Health, "Kangaroo mother care is one of the most important, life-saving measures to improve the survival prospects and wellbeing of babies born early or small. These new publications aim to support this process, as ensuring mothers and babies can stay together and practise kangaroo mother care immediately after birth will require a radical rethink of how maternal and newborn care is organised.

Compared to clinical stabilisation in a more "high-tech" incubator or warmer, KMC has been demonstrated to dramatically enhance survival and health outcomes for preterm and low birthweight infants. According to statistics, it can actually boost feeding and growth, lower infections, prevents hypothermia, and increase preterm survival rates by as much as a third. For moms and families who take the lead in caring for their infants, it is also powerful and comforting. Despite these advantages, it is predicted that only about a third of nations have updated KMC policies or guidelines, which means millions of preterm and low birthweight infants are likely to be left out of this lifesaving practise. These tools were created in partnership with a multi-country, multi-stakeholder working group and are aimed at governments, programme partners, policy makers, and the larger public health community. They will aid nations in increasing KMC for premature or small-for-gestational-age infants. Worldwide, WHO continues to support national maternity, neonatal, and child health programmes in implementing and expanding KMC as the cornerstone of tiny and/or ill infant care.

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