History of KMC

The beginnings
In nature, kangaroos have a pouch for baby kangaroo to grow in. The Inuit women in Canada wear an amauti and carry their baby skin to skin on their bare backs, keeping the baby warm and safe despite the harsh cold environment. (Click arrow on left for more slides).
Records of any practice resembling kangaroo mother care (KMC) or skin to skin contact in the ancient literature are scarce. If it was practiced at all, little, if any was documented. A traditional practice resembling KMC has been described among the Inuit women in Canada wearing a seal- skin garment called an amauti. Despite the cold and harsh environment, these women would carry their baby skin to skin against their bare back in the specially enlarged hood of the amauti. Mothers could bring their babies back and forth for breastfeeding and perform other nursing care within the hood without exposure to the surroundings. Baby is kept warm and safe, while creating a special bond between mother and baby. This could be the closest thing used by human mothers that resembles the build-in baby pouch that the kangaroo mother has for their baby kangaroo.
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The incubator
Incubators were developed to care for preterm and sick babies, in particular to help keep them warm. Using the mother as an incubator, was not considered until after 1970. (Click arrow on left for more slides).
It is well known that a newborn baby may have difficulty maintaining his/her body temperature and can suffer from cold injury (hypothermia) and over the centuries numerous babies have died from this. This was why in the mid-1800’s the first infant incubators were developed. The design and function of the incubator has improved greatly, and it has increasingly become the standard of care for preterm and sick babies. Using the mother as an incubator, was not considered until after 1970.
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During the 1970s the first suggestions arose that skin-to-skin contact between mother and baby might be beneficial. Dr Chateau, Dr Klaus and Dr Kennel described how ‘’extra care’’ was beneficial, particularly to the relationship between the mother and baby, now known as maternal-infant bonding. It was in 1981 that the term Kangaroo Mother Method was first coined by Dr Rey and Dr Martinez from Bogota, Columbia. In their large hospital with many preterm births and without sufficient facilities to care for them all, they used this method out of necessity and found that they could send small preterm babies home with their mothers. The mortality (death) rate of preterm babies treated with KMC was lower than those without. Their findings prompted calls for further research (Whitelaw and Sleath in 1985) and the first trial to test KMC as a treatment was published by Whitelaw in 1998. This method was then termed as ‘Kangaroo Mother Care’ at a meeting in 1996 with representatives from the World Health Organisation (WHO). Subsequently, the trials have been put together into a Cochrane Review (Conde‐Agudelo 2016) and into a bibliography of all KMC research up to 2017 (Ludington’s KCBIB). The accumulation of this body of research shows that there are very important benefits that the traditional incubator cannot mimic.
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Getting Kangaroo Care into practice

Important milestones to reach the goal of getting kangaroo care as normal practice for all babies. (Click the different years for more info).

  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kangaroo_care (Accessed on 7 July 2022)
  2. de Château, P 1976. The Influence of Early Contact on Maternal and Infant Behaviour in Primiparae (1976) Birth Volume 3, Issue 4 p. 149-156 https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1523-536X.1976.tb01186.x
  3. Bonding by Kennell & Klaus. Pediatr Rev. 1998 Dec;19(12):433. doi: 10.1542/pir.19-12-433. PMID: 9849076.
  4. WHO. Kangaroo mother care – a practical guide. Geneva, Switzerland: WHO; 2003
  5. https://www.healthynewbornnetwork.org/resource/kmcjointstatement (Accessed o 7 July 2022)
  6. Charpak, N., Zf, D.C., & Jg, R.S. (2000). The Bogotá Declaration on Kangaroo Mother Care”: conclusions at the second international workshop on the method. Second International Workshop of Kangaroo Mother Care. Acta Paediatrica, 89(9);1137-40  doi:10.1080/713794578PMID 11071099
  7. Conde-Agudelo A, Diaz-Rossello JL, Belizan JM. Kangaroo mother care to reduce morbidity and mortality in low birthweight infants. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2003;(2):CD002771. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD002771. Update in: Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2011;(3):CD002771. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD002771 PMID: 12804436
  8. Susan Ludington’s “KCBIB”” (Accessed on 7 July 2022)
  9. Charpak N, Angel MI, Banker D, Bergh AM, María Bertolotto A, De Leon-Mendoza S, Godoy N, Lincetto O, Lozano JM, Ludington-Hoe S, Mazia G, Mokhachane M, Montealegre A, Ramirez E, Sirivansanti N, Solano JM, Day LT, Uy ME. Strategies discussed at the XIIth international conference on Kangaroo mother care for implementation on a countrywide scale. Acta Paediatr. 2020 Nov;109(11):2278-2286. PMCID: PMC7687100 doi: 10.1111/apa.15214 PMID: 32027398
  10. WHO 2021 Kangaroo mother care started immediately after birth critical for saving lives, new research shows. Geneva, 2021. https://www.who.int/news/item/26-05-2021-kangaroo-mother-care-started-immediately-after-birth-critical-for-saving-lives-new-research-shows (Accessed 7 July 2022)