“Kangaroo Mother Care to prevent neonatal deaths due to preterm birth complications” by Joy Lawn et al., 2010, provides much needed peer reviewed evidence to support the continued promotion of Kangaroo Mother Care (KMC) as an effective alternate care for preterm babies, the majority of whom are low birthweight, in developing countries where conventional incubator care is not easily accessible. This is the first meta-analysis that has examined the impact of KMC and conventional care on neonatal mortality.
Mali, photo by Joshua Roberts
The conclusion of the meta-analysis conducted by the authors was that “KMC substantially reduces neonatal mortality amongst preterm babies,” in particular those weighing less than 2000 g. One of the main concerns of the 2003 Cochrane review, which concluded that there was “no evidence of a difference in infant mortality” between KMC and incubator care, was that KMC was initiated after the first week of life — when most neonatal deaths would have already occurred.
The Lawn et al. meta-analysis, which included three randomized control trials where KMC was initiated in the first week of life, showed a 50% reduction in neonatal mortality compared to conventional care. This is an important finding for the promotion of the use of KMC to improve survival for preterm and low birthweight babies.
Preterm birth is the leading direct cause of neonatal deaths worldwide, and, in addition, low birthweight is a significant underlying cause in over 60% of all neonatal deaths. It is critical that developing countries provide appropriate services to care for these preterm and low birthweight babies.
What can countries and their development partners do to ensure that service providers have the knowledge and skills to support mothers and caretakers to provide KMC to their preterm and low birthweight babies?