Malawi: promoting kangaroo mother care

Baobab or Acacia trees. Blue, blue skies. Women walking along with babies on their backs. Idyllic! And a scene from almost every African country I have visited.

The babies are probably blissfully unaware of how hard their mothers work, I always think. But what better way is there for a mother to be sure that her baby is cared for, even while she is at work?

Skin-to-skin

Being with its mother, preferably skin-to-skin, is best for the baby too. Removing a baby from its mother causes it stress.

I learned recently that this feeling of closeness for mother and baby is so important that it can actually help save a baby’s life.

Kangaroo Mother Care, where the newborn is placed skin-to-skin with its mother, is a medical technique used to stabilise premature babies and nurse them to full health.

A young mother with her newborn baby. Keeping babies in close contact with their mothers at all times improves the prospects for premature babies.

Kangaroo Mother Care

Named after the popular marsupials that carry their young in pouches, Kangaroo Mother Care involves mothers binding their babies to their chests.

That way the babies stay warm and free from stress, hear a stable heartbeat, can breastfeed at will, and can connect with their mothers’ eyes, voice and love at all times.

Save the Children works in several countries across Africa to promote Kangaroo Mother Care.

Success in Malawi

I was in Malawi for my Easter break when I learned that Save the Children supports Kangaroo Mother Care centres in every district in the country. More recently, I heard that Malawi has the highest rate of pre-term births in the world: around 18%.

Kangaroo Mother Care centres are showing that pre-term babies can be saved.

Of course it isn’t a magic bullet. As my friend and colleague Joby George, quoted in this blog about Malawi’s success with the technique, would say, pre-term births still have to be managed through a variety of other ways, including prevention.

He would be absolutely right. But, it doesn’t stop me from being impressed by the simplicity of Kangaroo Mother Care — and by the realisation that something that comes so instinctively to mothers and babies is actually what is best for them!

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