World Breastfeeding Week 2023: The Kangaroo Mother Care (KMC) Way

Vinay Pratap Singh discusses the iKMC study of integrating Kangaroo mother care for small babies immediately after birth into routine health services in Uttar Pradesh, registered at the ISRCTN registry.

Life is beautiful and every newborn has the right to experience it.

Sadly, nearly half of all child deaths under the age of 5 years occur within the first 28 days of life, highlighting a critical “window of opportunity” where targeted powerful interventions can have a transformative impact. Among these interventions, the implementation of effective Kangaroo Mother Care (KMC) has the potential to prevent a substantial proportion of these early mortalities.

Breastfeeding is a natural tonic of infant health and development, providing numerous benefits for both the baby and the mother. The World Health Organization (WHO) strongly recommends exclusive breastfeeding as a crucial practice during the first 6 months of an infant’s life. To support and maintain breastfeeding, Kangaroo Mother Care (KMC) serves as a natural approach that fosters skin-to-skin contact between the mother and baby, acting as a catalyst for both initiation and continuation of exclusive breastfeeding.

Breastfeeding is a natural tonic of infant health and development, providing numerous benefits for both the baby and the mother.

Why KMC is important?

KMC involves continuous skin-to-skin contact between the mother and her newborn, along with frequent and exclusive breastfeeding, proper hygiene, and respectful care. The journey of exclusive breastfeeding is an incredible gift that a mother can offer her newborn. To enhance this experience significantly, the remarkable approach of KMC provides a multitude of benefits for both mother and baby. Also bringing in the concept of immediate KMC specifically, which involves placing the newborn baby directly on the mother’s bare chest immediately after birth.

Scientific studies have shown that KMC has a positive impact on babies’ growth and development. It also aids in improving breastfeeding rates and increases maternal satisfaction. Moreover, providing immediate skin-to-skin contact contributes to better initiation of breastfeeding within the first 24 hours after birth.

What most surprised or excited you?

One of the critical challenges we face is ensuring widespread access to high-quality immediate KMC. Despite the WHO recommending KMC two decades ago, global coverage remains dismally low, with immediate KMC virtually non-existent. Immediate KMC holds immense importance as it not only strengthens the bond between mother and baby but also supports the infant’s nourishment through exclusive breastfeeding. By integrating immediate KMC into the early postpartum period, we can empower mothers to establish and maintain exclusive breastfeeding, thereby providing their babies with the best possible nutrition and nurturing.

Building a strong foundation: skin-to-skin contact

Mother-baby bondKMC creates an intimate and nurturing environment through skin-to-skin contact. This physical closeness immediately after birth establishes a deep emotional bond between mother and baby. The warmth and comfort experienced during KMC help the baby feel secure, fostering a sense of trust and attachment after entering the new environment. This strong foundation strengthens the breastfeeding relationship and lays the groundwork for exclusive breastfeeding success.

Stimulating milk production: the oxytocin connection

Skin-to-skin contact during KMC stimulates the release of oxytocin, the “love hormone”. Oxytocin plays a crucial role in breastfeeding, triggering the let-down reflex and promoting milk production. The more oxytocin flows, the more nourishing milk the mother produces. The continuous skin-to-skin contact during KMC sessions not only regulates the baby’s body temperature but also enhances the baby’s immune system, reducing the risk of infections and illnesses that could interrupt exclusive breastfeeding.

Improving latch-on and feeding techniques

Placing the baby on the mother’s chest immediately after birth encourages the instinctive rooting and suckling reflexes in the newborn. KMC enhances the baby’s ability to latch on effectively and promotes better feeding techniques. The proximity and accessibility of the breast during skin-to-skin contact make it easier for the baby to find and latch onto the breast, ensuring a strong start to the breastfeeding journey.

The natural instinct and closeness experienced during KMC sessions provide the baby with valuable learning opportunities, resulting in improved breastfeeding skills and a more comfortable and efficient feeding experience. Furthermore, the baby’s optimal latch and suckling during KMC sessions enhance milk transfer, providing the infant with the vital nutrients they need for growth and development.

Skin-to-skin contact during KMC stimulates the release of oxytocin, the “love hormone”.

Maternal confidence and emotional well-being

Immediate KMC promotes maternal confidence and emotional well-being, which are crucial factors in sustaining exclusive breastfeeding. The intimate bonding experience and successful breastfeeding initiation during KMC contribute to a mother’s belief in her ability to nourish and care for her baby.

This confidence, coupled with the emotional satisfaction derived from the close mother-infant relationship, strengthens the mother’s commitment to continued breastfeeding. Additionally, another beautiful aspect of KMC lies in its ability to heighten the mother’s awareness of her baby’s needs, enabling her to recognize early hunger cues and respond by feeding her baby on demand promptly.

About Community Empowerment Lab

Community Empowerment Lab (CEL) is a community-entrenched leading global health research and innovation organization based in Shivgarh, Uttar Pradesh, India. CEL focuses on developing and evaluating multidisciplinary, integrated, and innovative solutions for maternal, neonatal, and child health, and taking them to scale.

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