Stories from healthcare professional
It creates a team
Kangaroo mother care (KMC) was formally introduced to me in 2013 when I was involved in a multi-country project called SEA-URCHIN (South East Asia – Using Research for change in Hospital-acquired Infection in Neonates). I was fascinated by the extent of its short- and long-term benefits to all parties involved, meaning not just the parents and the babies but also us, the nurses and doctors. It creates a unique bond that brings us all together. We become a team, all of whom want to get the baby well enough to go home early and be with his or her family. I got a healthcare team together and started training more healthcare staff on kangaroo mother care practices. We also did such training with other hospitals. In 2015 we set up protocols and started implementing the practice. Within a year, we found ourselves discharging preterm babies much earlier, had more confident parents and more healthcare workers who were eager to encourage the practice.
Other benefits became apparent
Mothers were delighted to see how beautifully their babies grew and the wonderful bond created by KMC. Many were also surprised how quickly and instinctively their baby learnt to look for their breast for feeding once placed on naked chests. We also had fathers performing KMC in a similar manner.
Parents and staff became champions
We did face substantial obstacles but through determination, we tried to make KMC practices to be as successful as possible. Parent’s feedback such as “rasa sayang” helped to motivate us to continue to strive to sustain the practice. We have seen KMC champions among both parents and healthcare workers. One of them was a parent of a baby boy born at 29 weeks gestation weighing just 1400 grams. Due to frequent KMC by his mother the baby gained weight rapidly and established breastfeeding very fast. This encouraged her to advocate and motivate other mothers in the ward, both with term and preterm babies to join her performing KMC with their own babies.
Two of the healthcare staff who championed KMC got good ratings for their work performance resulting in them being promoted.
Covid-19 impact on KMC
Covid-19 had a huge impact on KMC due to the initial policy of separating babies from their COVID positive mothers and visiting restrictionsto parents. This issue has now been cleared. Parentsare now encouraged to be with their newborns, fostering bonds and nurturing through KMC and breastfeeding. In line with the World Health Organization, KMC and direct breastfeeding should be encouraged for all newborns.
KMC is now practiced in more situations
In other countries, KMC is practiced. beyond just care of a preterm baby, and has expanded to include KMC for all babies including those who are ill, and also KMC as a means of transportation. They have also introduced it for surrogate parents such as grandparents. The COVID-19 pandemic did not deter the further advances and improvement of KMC.
We hope Malaysia’s healthcare system will move towards this healthy family-centered care for the better of the newborn, family, community and nation.
(Dr Foong Wai Cheng & Dr Mehala Baskaran, Hospital Pulau Pinang, 10/5/22)