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How Kangaroo care is saving lives of preterm babies
On April 9, 2019 | 0 Comments

He was born 12 weeks premature. He weighed 1.3kgs,slightly more than a kilogram of sugar.At her mothers chest he rest.It is a battle to save his life. She says l will call him Gift. But for now he is baby Miriam.

Miriam Syombua from Mukuru Kayaba ,lies silently at Mbagathi Hospital at the Kangaroo care ward .At her chest her little one rest.Once in a while he moves his head gently. Each move gives Syombua a smile on her face.She is full of hope that her baby will live.l lost my first two babies due to pregnancy complication but am optimistic about my third born he will make it .

I was home when l started feeling some pain.I was surprised because I knew my pregnancy was not due.When the pain was too much to bare l was rushed to Mbagathi Hospital.”The doctors told me the baby was coming and immediately was taken to labor ward and there l gave birth to my baby boy.l had mixed reaction.l was afraid of losing him , at the same time happy to hold my baby , alive.He was so tiny” she says.

Due to the low weight he was taken to the incubator. He stayed there for one week.The one week seemed like a month to me.l was so stressed since we were housed separately.Every time l went to see him at the incubator l was not sure anymore if he would make it.During the one week he lost several grams.

After this period l was introduced to Kangaroo Mother Care (KMC).”l had never had of something like that.The nurse trained me all about it.All l had to do was to tie my baby around the chest for almost up to 18 hours a day,”she notes.
It’s my fourth day now and am happy .When my baby was at the incubator he weighed 1.3 kg but right now within a span of four days he add four grams.Now he weighs 1.7 kg ,continues the happy mother.Right now l have lots of breast milk.I am not stressed because l stay with my baby all the time and each day he proves we will be going home ,happily together .

For Easter Wacu Maina for her is a success story of KMC.Being a fast mother she was shocked beyond imagination. When you hear the stories of mothers who have given birth before, they will always talk about bouncing baby girls and boys.l always dreamt of the bouncing baby girl.When the baby come l was perplexed ,scared, nervous and confused.She was very tiny.l have never seen such a tiny baby.l had to give the nurse to hold her and even help me bath her.”She weighed 1.5kg.She was six month when l delivered,” narrates Wacu.

My baby stayed in the incubator for a month. She lost some grams.All this time and the stay in the hospital was driving me crazy .Most of the time l was stressed out.l didn’t know if the baby could make for another day because in the incubators some babies were dying.l could not produce milk ,even the 5ml they needed to feed her.”Immediately l was introduced to KMC everything just changed.My baby added some weight from 1.2kg-18kg within two weeks,”she adds.

She says,KMC was some sort of a miracle l had been waiting for so long. I was so relaxed and with support from my husband it gave me hope .He took a two week leave just to help me with the KMC.”Now my baby is six month old .Very healthy and an active child too.She now weighs 8kg.The bond between my husband and the baby is also so strong,sometimes l even feel a bit jealous, she says jokingly.

Speaking to Mary Khayumbi the Nursing officer in charge of new born unity in Mbagathi ,she says this simple act of Kangaroo mother care has reduced premature infant mortality to one or zero at Mbagathi Hospital.The Hospital could lose up to 15 babies per month to preterm complications.Kangaroo Mother Care is where mothers of premature babies tie their babies around the chest for up to 18 hours per day for a skin to skin contact .This enables the babies get warm and gain weight faster.It also regulates the temperature and heart beat.

Since the introduction of Kangaroo mother care in 2016 by Save the Children Kenya we have not only reduce preterm mortality but also save on the cost involved in taking care of preterm babies .”The Kangaroo mother care enables the mother to bond with her baby.It reduces cross infections since the babies don’t share incubators and the baby is only attended by the mother.Furthermore it has reduced breathing problems that always occurs in preterm babies .Premature babies are at risk of dying due to hypothermia and hypoglycemia.But with KMC ,the constant skin contact between mother and the baby it helps regulate the temperatures”,she notes.

Khayumbi adds that Kangaroo mother care enables mother to produce enough milk for the baby compared to when the baby is in the incubator and has to be fed with formula milk.When the mother stays with the baby she is less depressed.This enables her to produce enough milk for the baby.In the past the hospital used to get into debts because of buying the formula milk but now we use only a can of formula milk for weeks.There are no more frequent incubator repairs .The KMC also requires less nurse attention hence less labor .

Before the KMC , mothers used to stay in hospital up to four month leading to congestion in incubators and wards.Right now it’s between four days to two weeks reducing hospital stays.Once the baby is 2 kg we discharge the mother to continue with KMC at home with the help of spouse and other family members.
“Some of the mother would run away leaving their babies because of the long stays in the incubators. With Kangaroo mother care we only put the unstable babies in incubators. When they are stable they are joined back with their mothers,explain Khayumbi.

Joan Emoh senior health coordinator at Save the Children Kenya she says since the implementation of Kangaroo Mother Care in Nairobi two years now , they have been able to work with seven hospitals including Kibera south,Mathare North ,Pumwani, Mbagathi ,Kenyatta National Hospital and St Marys.

“We do facility assessments and provide basic equipment like thermometer, digital wing scale and procurement of equipments according to the needs of the facility ”,says doctor Emoh.We also train staff,set up starts up and helps the hospital do documentation for preterm babies they have initiated.We do follow ups and home visits .
Save the children has also started peer mother support group.Where champion mothers come together and encourage each other.Apart from that we encourage family members also to step in especially the spouses. So long as the family member do not have any kind of infectious disease is good to help the mother so as she can also get some time to rest.

In the first year of implementation, culture was a big challenge especially in rural areas. Most of the preterms were referred to as rats hence left to die.The process of also trying to convince men to embrace KMC took as a while .But with community sensitization and success stories of KMC we have men in Kenya practising KMC in Counties such as Bungoma.

Our future plans are to decongest newborn units,include health indicators in national health system and include pretem in NHIF.We also plan to introduce KMC in all the 47 counties in the country.
“KMC is an evidence based practice with high impact intervention with a low cost,notes Emoh.
In Kenya neonatal mortality stands at 22 per 1000 live nation wide with Nairobi accounting for 39 per 1000 live in a year.Approximately over 180,000 babies are born prematurely. Preterm babies accounts for 12 percent of mortality in under five out of the 42 percent of under 5 mortality.

Written by Veronica Kaveza, Editor Portable Voices.

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