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Thursday, October 1, 1998 Published at 23:09 GMT 00:09 UK


Health

Kangaroo care counters the cold

Incubators normally treat babies with hypothermia

Hugging a baby can restore its body temperature faster than a high-tech incubator, researchers have found.

"Kangaroo care" is researchers' nickname for skin-to-skin (STS) heating, a technique used to protect a baby from hypothermia.

Babies who are born prematurely are more likely to have a low core body temperature which makes them particularly vulnerable to hypothermia.


[ image: Kangeroos maintain skin-to-skin contact with their young]
Kangeroos maintain skin-to-skin contact with their young
The research, published in The Lancet, was conducted by a team led by Dr Kyllike Christensson of the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm in Sweden.

The technique is simple - the mother holds her child in contact with her skin.

The baby absorbs excess body heat from its mother until it reaches normal body temperature, 37ºC.

Heat stress

The technique also carries a reduced risk of overheating because when the baby reaches 37º any excess heat will be passed to the mother.

Even moderate heat stress can lead to breathing problems.

The team found that after four hours, 90% of babies who received kangaroo care had regained normal body temperature.

This compared to 60% of babies placed in incubators.

Additional benefits

The researchers say the technique also:

  • Keeps heart rate more stable;
  • Helps maintain steady breathing;
  • Prevents unnecessary movement;
  • Improves the baby's behaviour;
  • Encourages mother-baby bonding.

    They concluded: "STS care was at least as effective as incubator care.

    "It may be an important approach for countries with limited resources."



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