KMC started immediately after birth is critical for saving lives

A new research published on the 27th of May 2021 in the New England Journal of Medicine has shown that KMC improves premature babies’ chances of survival when it is started immediately after birth instead of waiting till the baby is stable. Prior to this, the World Health Organization (WHO) recommended starting KMC only after the baby is stabilised in the incubator or warmer, which may take between 3 to 7 days. However, this new study suggests that, contrary to this advice, starting KMC as soon as possible immediately after birth could save up to 150,000 more lives annually.

KMC is already known to be effective in reducing the death rate (mortality) of hospitalised preterm babies by 40%. However, this study suggests that a further 25% reduction can be achieved when KMC is started immediately after birth with zero separation. These results indicate the need for a shift in the approach of KMC of preterm babies, allowing for zero separation of these babies from their mothers. This can be achieved through the implementation of Mother-Newborn ICUs, where mothers can provide continuous KMC to their newborn babies. This might mean that we need to redesign our intensive care units to accommodate both mother and baby. The World Health Organization (WHO) itself is also reviewing its current recommendations in light of this new research.   

"When started at the soonest possible time, kangaroo mother care can save more lives, improve health outcomes for babies and ensures the constant presence of the mother with her sick baby."
Dr Rajiv Bahl, Head of the Newborn Unit at WHO