Mother of all cares!

REMEMBER KANGAROO and how it holds its young one in a pouch attached to its belly? Would anyone believe that if a mother and a low birth weight (LBW) baby could be kept `skin to skin' for a few days or weeks, a miracle could happen?

That is exactly what Fernandez Hospital has initiated. Called `Kangaroo Mother Care (KMC),' the concept is prevalent in South Africa, the Phillipines and Columbia. The KMC concept impressed the Managing Director of the hospital, Evita Fernandez, and the Chief Neonatologist, G. Pramod Reddy, during their visit to South Africa this May.

Impressed by the efficacy of the low cost technique, a KMC unit was set up at the hospital in the third week of June. The unit takes care of four mothers and their children at one time, Dr. Pramod says. Currently, KMC facility is available only at Fernandez Hospital and in a bid to popularise the technique, the hospital and the Andhra Pradesh Chapter of the National Neonatology Forum organised a seminar, sponsored by Johnson and Johnson.

KMC involves skin to skin contact, increases production of mother's milk and hence more consumption of milk by the baby, faster weight gain and reduced infection rates. The suggested normal weight of a baby at birth is between 2.5 to 3.5 kilos. Babies below 2 kilos are considered LBW and kept in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). Once out of NICU, Dr. Evita says next step in the chain is to put the babies on KMC.

KMC concept was unveiled by two doctors -- Rey and Martinez in Bogota, Columbia, in 1979. Later, it was pioneered by Nils Bergman at Mowbray's Hospital, Cape Town, South Africa. It is a simple process that starts with keeping the baby and mother skin to skin.

The LBW baby is made to lie on the mother's chest and wrapped around with a certain degree of tautness, to minimise movement, taking care to see that the baby's breathing is not impeded.

Studies since 1979 have shown that the skin to skin contact directly leads to increased milk production and improved bonding. More milk and at more regular intervals results in the LBW baby gaining weight faster. Increased input of mother's milk also cuts down infection rate.

Thus, the need for an incubator, which costs upwards of Rs. 1,000 a day at any private hospital, is dispensed with.

The baby gaining weight faster means the mother-child duo can be discharged from hospital sooner.