Babies need constant skin-to-skin contact to feel loved and secure. As it turns out, a mother’s touch can benefit the baby more than just improving the mother-child bond.

‘Kangaroo care,’ referring to the prolonged skin-to-skin contact between the mother and child, as well as leaving the hospital for home quickly after birth and exclusive breastfeeding, is especially beneficial for low-birth-weight babies, according to a new analysis.

The Analysis

This conclusion was found after researchers poured over 124 studies from 2000 to 2014, which all observed babies that did not get kangaroo care. The studies also looked into skin-to-skin care components. Most of the babies involved in the studies weighed 5.5 pounds or less upon delivery.

The constant contact between the mother and the baby during the latter’s first few days of life slashes the probability of premature or low-birth-weight babies dying by a third.

The studies showed that infants who received ‘kangaroo mother care’ experienced a 36% reduction in mortality. Their risk of suffering from a major infection or sepsis was also reduced by 47%. The babies who spent a lot of time bonding with their moms also exhibited higher oxygen levels and lower pain measures than those who did not receive kangaroo care.

The Increasing Popularity of KMC

About 4 million babies who were born preterm or with low weight face the highest risks of premature death, especially those born in low- and middle-income countries, where incubators and modern technologies are not readily available.

This is why doctors recommend the use of ‘kangaroo mother care’ practice to help the babies survive.

The same practice even benefits babies who were born full-term or with a normal weight, according to scientists from Boston Children’s Hospital and Harvard University.

Senior researcher and Harvard faculty member Dr. Grace Chan said that while ‘kangaroo mother care’ proves extremely useful in countries with limited medical resources, even developing and developed countries are advocating this practice to help mothers and their newborns.

The study about ‘kangaroo mother care’ was funded by the Saving Newborn Lives program of Save the Children.

It was published in the journal Pediatrics.