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Health And Family

Infant care as nature intended

The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - According to the World Health Organization, an estimated 15 million infants are born too soon every year. These deliveries come before the full gestation of 37 weeks — small, vulnerable, and clearly at risk. Pre-term and low-weight births remain to be the leading cause of neonatal mortality.

Amazingly, despite all the advanced technology that has been developed in hospitals to address such a situation, the most innovative yet little-known solution takes its cue from nature — specifically, the marsupial.

Kangaroo Mother Care (KMC) is an effective and powerful method used for the care of premature and low birth-weight babies, increasing their chances of surviving the harsh odds. Basically, the infant is placed on top of the mother’s chest, nestled close to her heart for at least three to six hours a day — even up to 24 hours. The baby may be held there with the help of a pouch-like cloth, reminiscent of the Australian mammal that inspired the method.

“There’s continuous interaction between mommy and baby through KMC,” says Dr. Fay de Ocampo, resident neonatologist of the University of Philippines-Manila and the Philippine General Hospital (PGH).

De Ocampo, one of the active advocates of KMC in the country, adds, “There are so many advantages to KMC. The skin-to-skin contact alone makes it beneficial to the newborn. The mechanism is similar to an incubator. Oxytocin hormones dilate the blood vessels of the mother, which produce more blood flow, and allow mom’s skin to become warm. If the baby is hypothermic or has low temperature, mom’s temperature goes up to warm baby. But once baby is warm and stabilizes, the mechanism stops so that mom and baby keep the same temperature.”

Breastfeeding and mother-baby bonding are added benefits of KMC. With KMC, the new mom becomes more confident of how to care for and handle her baby. Breastfeeding is established, and there’s little adjustment and stress when they bring baby home. If mother and baby are healthy and strong, they can actually be given an early discharge from the hospital even if the baby looks small.

In 2011, through a research grant provided by the PEER (Providing an Enabling Environment for Research) health program, De Ocampo successfully carried out a study on the effectiveness of KMC in the Philippine context.

The PEER health research grant program is initiated by Pfizer Philippines Foundation Inc. in partnership with the National Institute of Health-Philippines and the Department of Science and Technology-Philippine Council for Health Research and Development.

De Ocampo observed two groups of low birth-weight babies in her study — the KMC group and a conventional care group. As expected, the results of the study show that neonates in the KMC group attained higher gain in weight compared with neonates in the control group. It was also found that KMC significantly protects the neonates against hypothermia. Encouraged, De Ocampo and her mentor Dr. Esterlita Uy, who is also a neonatologist at the PGH, have been working on an advocacy that further institutionalizes KMC beginning in such government-owned hospitals.

“Dr. Socorro Mendoza, one of the first doctors to introduce KMC to the country, went to Bogota, Colombia to study the method and came back to establish a curriculum in KMC,” explains Uy.

With the high numbers of premature and low birth-weight babies in the country, and not enough resources to go around, KMC is the best alternative to save lives. In terms of operational cost, KMC actually helps the hospital with a faster discharge of the patients, decongesting the wards.

 

BABY

DE OCAMPO

DR. ESTERLITA UY

DR. FAY

DR. SOCORRO MENDOZA

ENABLING ENVIRONMENT

HEALTH RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT

KANGAROO MOTHER CARE

KMC

NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF HEALTH-PHILIPPINES AND THE DEPARTMENT OF SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY-PHILIPPINE COUNCIL

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