Thermal care of newborns is one of the recommended strategies to reduce hypothermia, which contributes to neonatal morbidity and mortality. However, data on these two topics have not been collected at the national level in many surveys. In this study, we examine two elements of thermal care: drying and delayed bathing of newborns after birth with the objectives of examining how two countries collected such data and then looking at various associations of these outcomes with key characteristics. Further, we examine the data for potential data quality issues as this is one of the first times that such data are available at the national level.
We use data from two nationally-representative household surveys: the Malawi Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey 2014 and the Bangladesh Demographic and Health Survey 2014. We conduct descriptive analysis of the prevalence of these two newborn practices by various socio-demographic, economic and health indicators.
Our results indicate high levels of immediate drying/drying within 1 hour in Malawi (87%). In Bangladesh, 84% were dried within the first 10 minutes of birth. Bathing practices varied in the two settings; in Malawi, only 26% were bathed after 24 hours but in Bangladesh, 87% were bathed after the same period. While in Bangladesh there were few newborns who were never bathed (less than 5%), in Malawi, over 10% were never bathed. Newborns delivered by a skilled provider tended to have better thermal care than those delivered by unskilled providers.
These findings reveal gaps in coverage of thermal care and indicate the need to further develop the role of unskilled providers who can give unspecialized care as a means to improve thermal care for newborns. Further work to harmonize data collection methods on these topics is needed to ensure comparable data across countries.