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Kangaroo Mother Care: Saving Babies’ Lives and Health

Every year, more than a million babies die because they were born preterm, meaning before 37 weeks of gestation. Preterm birth also puts newborns at a higher risk of contracting infections. [1]

Kangaroo Mother Care is an important intervention for newborns, especially preterm babies, and it consists of:

1) Skin-to-skin contact between the baby’s unclothed chest and the mother's chest starting from birth and ideally continuing continuously day and night

2) Exclusive breastfeeding on demand or as often as needed

3) Support to the mother and infant pair meaning providing anything to support the mother’s and baby’s complete health without separating them.

Earlier this year, the International Journal of Epidemiology published the first meta-analysis review of Kangaroo Mother Care. [1] This review looked at 15 studies, including six observational studies and nine randomized controlled trials, which showed that Kangaroo Mother Care can prevent deaths among preterm babies in the hospital setting and reduce disability, particularly from infection. However, Kangaroo Mother Care is not yet widely available in most low-income countries. In Rwanda, in collaboration with Jhpiego, IntraHealth has helped expand the availability of Kangaroo Mother Care.”

Following on the heels of this review, experts in newborn health from 33 countries gathered in Quebec, Canada, in June of this year at the eighth annual International Conference on Kangaroo Mother Care. This gathering offered maternal health experts a chance to discuss innovative clinical research on premature birth; how hospital and home environments can support the social, cognitive, and neurological development of premature babies; and how to implement Kangaroo Mother Care more widely. Among the many conference presentations, one comparative study from India and Canada demonstrated a direct correlation between the use of Kangaroo Mother Care and sustained breastfeeding of premature infants.  Finally, an expert panel took on the task of offering revisions to the World Health Organization’s current guidance document, “Kangaroo mother care: a practical guide,” published in 2003. The revised guidance will be released soon.                                 


1. JE Lawn, Mwansa-Kambafwile J, Horta BL, Barros FC, Cousens S. April 2010. Kangaroo mother care to prevent neonatal deaths due to preterm birth complications. Int J Epidemiol. 39(suppl_1): i144–i154. Available at: