Kangaroo Mother Care

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The Kangaroo Mother Care program shows mothers how continuous skin-to-skin contact helps keep their newborns warm. Kangaroo Mother Care also encourages mother and child to bond emotionally and enables the baby to breastfeed at will, giving it the energy to produce its own body heat. In many cases, the program reduces the need for incubators, which are prohibitively expensive in developing countries.


Why should I be aware of this?

A new-born baby’s wellbeing depends on continuing its gestation in skin-to-skin contact with the mother and on exclusive breastfeeding. For premature infants, continuing the gestation on mothers skin-to-skin contact and with breast milk is even more important than for full-term infants. A newborn has all the skills and behaviors it needs to grow and be well. All it needs is to be undisturbed in skin-to-skin contact with mother, and it will breastfeed.

Kangaroo Mother Care (KMC) is an effective way to meet an infant's baby’s needs for warmth, breastfeeding, protection from infection, stimulation, safety and love. It is a universally available and biologically sound method of care for all newborns, but in particular for premature babies, with three components:

  1. Skin-to-skin Contact
  2. Exclusive breast feeding
  3. Support to the mother infant dyad.

How does this affect me?

The health of an infant is closely linked to the mother’s health and the care she receives in pregnancy and childbirth. In affluent societies LBW due to preterm birth has been decreasing because of better socioeconomic conditions, lifestyles and nutrition. This, along with improved neonatal care technology and highly specialized and skilled health workers have rested in healthier pregnancies.

All about Kangaroo Mother Care

It is estimated that about 20 million low-birth-weight (LBW) babies are born each year, because of either pre-term birth or impaired prenatal growth, mostly in less developed countries. In such countries the care of such infants becomes a burden for health and social systems. Pre-term birth is the main contributor to LBW in affluent societies.

Kangaroo mother care is a powerful, easy-to-use care of preterm infants carried skin-to-skin with the mother. Its key features are:

  • early, continuous and prolonged skin-to-skin contact between the mother and the baby;
  • exclusive breastfeeding
  • should be continued at home after being initiated at the hospital
  • giving adequate support and follow-up to mothers at home
  • agitation routinely experienced in a busy ward with pre-term infants is avoided and a gentle approach adopted.

Correct habitat and niche

From the biological aspect, immediately after the birth of Homo sapiens, skin-to-skin contact represents the correct "habitat", and breastfeeding the "niche" or pre-programmed behavior designed for that habitat.

In the uterus, apart from warmth, nutrition and protection, oxygenation is provided through the placenta. When a child enters the new habitat, the basic needs remain the same, and skin-to-skin habitat replaced these needs.

Oxygenation has been found to increase so much on skin-to-skin contact that KMC is used successfully to treat respiratory distress. The breathing becomes regular and stable, and is coordinated with heart rate.

Other important KMC benefits

  • Research has found that once infants are removed from incubators there is a rise in temperature and a dramatic drop in glucocorticoids. Mothers are able to control the infants’ temperature in a much shorter time than an incubator can. To accomplish this, her core temperature can rise to two degrees Centigrade if baby is cold, and fall one degree if baby is hot. Skin-to-skin contact is better than incubator for rewarming hypothermic infants.
  • Nutrition is improved, both with respect to the mother’s ability to breastfeed, and with respect to the newborn’s utilization of the feed.
  • Prematures seem to have poor immune systems, and are susceptible to allergies, infections and feeding problems in the first year of life. Early SSC dramatically reduces these problems.
  • Infections are reduced when SSC and exclusive breastfeeding are firmly introduced. Necrotizing enterocolitis (a potentially lethal and very costly disease to treat) has been dramatically reduced in many units following a KMC program.


  • KMC, by facilitating breastfeeding, offers noticeable advantages in cases of severe morbidity.
  • It contributes to the humanization of neonatal care and to better bonding between mother and baby in both low and high-income countries.
  • KMC is a modern method of care in any setting, even where expensive technology and adequate care are available. [1]


There is an assumption that a baby requires incubator care in order to stabilize. In reality incubators “destabilize” newborns. Newborns have a brain-wiring (neurophysiology) that craves and requires mother’s presence in order to stabilize and adjust to a new environment.


  • Kangaroo Mother Care - A practical guide
  • Kangaroo Mother Care