News / Health

Q&A with Joy Lawn: Kangaroo Mother Care

FILE - A mother performs Kangaroo care, or skin-to-skin contact, with her premature baby to give the baby the physical stimulation it needs.
FILE - A mother performs Kangaroo care, or skin-to-skin contact, with her premature baby to give the baby the physical stimulation it needs.
Frances Alonzo
A mother’s touch really cam save a child’s life. That’s the claim behind Kangaroo Mother Care. It’s when a pre-term or low weight baby is literally tied to the mother’s front, skin to skin, to keep the baby warm. The idea is not new, but this simple act is literally saving thousands of babies around the world. There is solid research to back up the claims.  The research is led by neonatologist Joy Lawn and appears in the International Journal of Epidemiology. Lawn spoke to VOA’s Frances Alonzo and outlined this most effective intervention to reduce newborn deaths in Asia. 
 

LAWN: Kangaroo Mother Care is when we have a little pre-term baby, who is very vulnerable, particularly to temperature, infections, and to difficulties in feeding. And that baby is tied to the mother’s front and what that provides is warmth and then from the mother breast-feeding, so the baby gains weight much more. But one of the other interesting things we are learning is that it really reduces the risk of infections. So instead of the baby being separated they get the mother's skin infections, which are actually good infections, and protect the baby from other bugs that they may get particularly in a hospital but it also has an effect on brain growth for the baby.
 
ALONZO: The whole idea of kangaroo care doesn’t seem really new. Had the medical community gotten away from what may be considered just natural motherhood, natural care of a child?
 
LAWN: I know that is exactly right. And what we see is the expectation for neonatal care for small babies, especially pre-term babies, is very much based on machines and hospitals and we would separate babies from their mothers. But this is actually very careful science and partly out of desperation maybe that the doctors started tying the babies to the mother's front which kept them warm.
 
ALONZO: How does this help with preemies born in Asia?
 
LAWN: Very important question. Asia has the highest rate of small babies born in the world. In some parts of Asia, particularly in South Asia, almost a third of babies are less than 2.5 kilograms. So low birth weight. And those babies are at the biggest risk of death and disability and of complications when they're small. And it used to be thought that there was nothing you could do for these babies. And so this is a real turnaround, not that it’s a poor person’s solution. Actually, interestingly, the countries that are moving fastest on changing their care to include kangaroo mother care are the richest countries. But this is something that’s very accessible that every baby and every mother in the world has the power to be able to do this. And it can really change survival for the babies. India alone has about 900,000 babies who die every year and the most common cause is being born preterm or being born too small compared to the size that you should be or both. And those babies, many of them could be saved by kangaroo mother care and by the supportive care that is provided with that.
 
ALONZO: What is it about the region in Asia that has low birth weight babies?
 
LAWN: What’s different in Asia, is that in South Asia there are also a lot of babies who are born smaller than expected and that isn’t just about feeding pregnant women or the nutrition you get when you are pregnant, a lot of that is about girls who are already too small, so that the girl who isn’t fed well who grows up shorter than she should be, her potential for having a normal size baby is reduced. In some settings in South Asia where you know maybe there is preferential care for the boys versus the girls. The boys may be fed more than the girls, but also maybe when the girls get ill they aren’t taken to hospitals. So your adult size as well as your genetics is also very determined by what happens in those first couple of years of life.
 
ALONZO: What you are saying is that if a baby girl is born, she’s preterm, but she’s not taken care of as much, she’s not given quite as much to eat, as an infant up to two years. So then as she grows older and becomes a mom herself, the likelihood of her having a preterm baby and low birth weight baby is much higher.
 
LAWN: Yeah, that’s exactly right. So I think the exciting thing now is that as we look around the world that people are really talking about how we are the first generation that has a chance to see a change in health for the whole of the next generation in every country. And the secret for that, particularly in South Asia, is this intergenerational change. So we can do things for babies that are born small now. We can improve their care. We can do kangaroo mother care and that will save lives today. But we will carry on having lots of small babies unless we pay attention also to those next generation going forward and the nutrition of girl children.

You May Like

Could Nemtsov Threaten Putin in Death as in Life?

Dynamic and debonair opposition leader had supported liberal economic reforms, criticized Russian president's aggression in Ukraine More

Oil Smuggling Highlights Challenges in Shutting Down IS Finances

Pentagon spokesman says Islamic State 'certainly continues to get revenue from the oil industry black market' but that airstrikes have made a dent More

India Focuses on Infrastructure, Investment to Propel Economy

Government expects economy to grow at 8 to 8.5 percent in next fiscal year More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Casei
X
Katherine Gypson
February 25, 2015 11:30 PM
The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Hurt Nascent Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Industry

Falling oil prices are helping consumers purchase cheaper petroleum at the pump. But that’s made hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” less economically viable for the companies in the United States invested in the process. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports on one Midwestern town that was hoping to change its fortunes by cashing in on the next big U.S. oil boom.
Video

Video Fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan Fuels Mass Displacement

Heavy fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan state is causing hundreds of thousands to flee into uncertain conditions. Local aid organizations estimate as many as 400,000 civilians have been internally displaced since the conflict began more than three years ago, while another 250,000 have fled across the border to refugee camps in South Sudan. VOA's Adam Bailes reports.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.
Video

Video A Filmmaker Discovers Her Biracial Identity in "Little White Lie

Lacey Schwartz grew up in an upper middle-class Jewish family, in a town in upstate New York where almost everyone she knew was white. She assumed that she was, as well. Her recent documentary, Little White Lie, tells the story of how she uncovered the secret of her true racial background. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more on the film.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video US-Cuba Normalization Talks Resume Friday

Negotiations aimed at normalizing diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba resume Friday. On the table: lifting a half-century trade embargo and easing banking and travel restrictions. There's opposition in Congress, but some analysts say there may be sufficient political and economic incentives in both nations for a potential breakthrough this year. VOA's Mil Arcega reports.
Video

Video Pakistan's Deadline For SIM Registration Has Cellphone Users Scrambling

Pakistani cell phone users have until midnight Thursday to register their SIM cards, or their service will be cut off. While some privacy experts worry about government intrusion, many Pakistanis are just worried about keeping their phone lines open. VOA Deewa reporter Arshad Muhmand has more from Peshawar.
Video

Video Myanmar Warns Factory Workers to End Strikes

Outside Myanmar's main city Yangon, thousands of workers walked off their jobs earlier this month demanding a doubling of their wages, pay raises after a year and input from labor unions on industrial regulations. Since Friday, the standoff has grown more tense as police moved in to disrupt the sit-ins, resulting in clashes that injured people from both sides. VOA correspondent Steve Herman visited industrial zones which have become a focus of Myanmar's fledgling workers rights movement.
Video

Video Oscar Winners Do More Than Thank the Academy

The Academy Awards presentation is Hollywood’s night to reward the best movies from the previous year. It’s typically a lot of glitter, a lot of thank you’s, a lot of speeches. But many of this year’s speeches carried messages beyond the thank you's. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti takes a look.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More