According to Save the Children, 20 percent of children in Malawi are born underweight. MalawiÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s health sector does not have enough incubators to service the 20 percent. Luckily, through Save the Children, the country was introduced to Kangaroo natural method of nursing babies to good health. Mwereti Kanjo asks Thyolo Hospital nurse and midwife technician Mary Akomananza how Kangaroo method works.
When is the Kangaroo mother care applicable?
When a baby is born underweight; that is about 1 500 grammes but without any other problems like fever, the baby and the mother are taken to the Kangaroo Ward where they are taught the method. This is where the mother keeps the baby warm through body contact.
The mother carries the baby on their chest for the body contact. The baby is only supposed to wear a diaper and a cap for the head to be warm and the woman is required to wear a top that opens in the front. The room is kept closed at all times and with a heater because the baby must be warm. The baby must be covered fully at all times.
Why is the Kangaroo method ideal?
With the Kangaroo method, only natural heat is needed. It is cheap because there is no need for electricity. It is also easy to do.
Is baby feeding normal when using Kangaroo?
Before the woman leaves the hospital, we teach her how to feed the baby. Because the baby is too young and too weak, it is difficult for it to suckle from the breast. So, the mother must squeeze the milk into a cup and slowly feed her baby.
Each baby is fed according to how much it weighs. The baby is weighed everyday because if the mother correctly follows the procedure, the child gains weight every day. As the baby gains more weight, we increase the intake of milk.Ã‚Â If the baby gains weight for three consecutive days, the woman is discharged but she must continue following the procedures she has been taught.
How is the babyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s progress checked after she leaves the hospital?
The woman is given a sheet of paper which she gives to the Health Surveillance Assistant (HSA) who monitors the babyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s progress weekly. Those that stay close to the hospital are asked to present themselves once a week and then once every two weeks until the baby weighs 2 500grammes. The woman is then advised on how to take care of her baby normally.
Other than body heat, what else is required?
We ask the women to cover the babies with a clean cloth and they must wear clean clothes that have been washed properly, preferably boiled. But because this is not easy, we ask them to ensure that they try and be clean always. This is to prevent the baby from any infections.
What advantages does the Kangaroo have over the incubator?
The baby is kept close to the mother, who quickly notices any changes in body temperature and other challenges. Secondly, the baby is so weak and so small that sometimes it forgets to breathe. When it lays on its motherÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s chest, her heartbeat reminds the baby to breathe.
Next week: challenges presented by the Kangaroo method