Kangaroo mother care, an urgent safety net for mothers.

Being a mother is the best thing that can happen to a woman. A woman will go to any length to have that feeling. Being a woman myself, with dreams of becoming a mother one day, it is only right to point out some of the issues that shatter the dreams of many women out there who go through the pregnancy stage and loss their babies before they are born or babies who die just few hours or days later due to medical reasons or lack of proper equipment to carter for the newborn and mother.

In order to help improve on maternal and child care in Cameroon, the government introduced the Kangaroo care or kangaroo mother care (KMC), also called skin-to-skin care, which is a technique of newborn care where babies are kept skin-to-skin with a parent, typically their mothers. It is commonly used for low birth-weight #preterm babies, who are more likely to suffer from hypothermia, while admitted to a neonatal unit to keep the baby warm and support early breastfeeding.

The Skin-to-skin care is also used to describe the technique of placing full-term newborns immediately after birth on the bare chest of their mothers or fathers. This also improves rates of breastfeeding and can lead to improved stability of the heart and breathing rate of the baby.

According to the World Fact Book, the Infant mortality rate of Cameroon is 51 deaths/1,000 live births as of 2017 as oppose to 2016, where the infant mortality rate for Cameroon was 52.8 deaths per 1,000 live births. This shows the urgency of action as far as mother and child care is concern in Cameroon. Often times, the main causes of infant mortality as earlier mentioned, are classified as endogenous or exogenous. The former which usually occur soon after birth are related to the birth process itself and include immaturity, obstetrical problems, congenital, malformation, neonatal tetanus, etc. Exogenous causes that usually come into play after the first month of life are more environmentally determined. These include parasitic and infectious diseases, other medical and non-medical causes.

With the stated urgency for action, the kangaroo mother care (KMC) steps in to provide safety from the three main challenges these infants can endure: separation from their mother, environmental stress and unbuffered painful procedures. In the KMC position, the infant’s parasympathetic nervous system is activated by oxytocin, resulting in a perception that the environment is ‘safe.’ The sympathetic system and associated “fight, freeze or flight” responses are down regulated, and physiological, metabolic and immunological functioning is optimized. Crucially, KMC helps babies to establish breastfeeding sooner and continue longer, and it also provides babies with pain relief. Furthermore, research suggests that the benefits of KMC can last throughout the child’s life.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the case for widespread KMC can be used as a “best practice” to enhance a “normal physiological postnatal period.

For KMC to be implemented and scaled more widely, a paradigm shift needs to occur away from routine care practices in the early postnatal period involving the separation of mothers and babies and towards a “zero-separation” model of care. This shift is recommended by the World Association for Infant Mental Health, the American Academy of Pediatrics and WHO. Timely use of KMC is safe, effective, efficient, equitable and people-centered and therefore meets the WHO definition of high quality care. Short and long term physiological, psycho-social, humanitarian and financial benefits are expected for individuals, professionals and healthcare systems implementing KMC on a large scale; indeed, there is an urgent moral and ethical imperative to do so.

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