Europe South Asia Asia Pacific Americas Middle East Africa BBC Homepage World Service Education

Front Page



UK Politics







Talking Point
On Air
Low Graphics

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


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."

    Advanced options | Search tips

    Back to top | BBC News Home | BBC Homepage | ©

  • Health Contents

    Background Briefings
    Medical notes

    Relevant Stories

    04 Sep 98 | Health
    Trial 'could halve risk of premature birth'

    06 Sep 98 | Health
    Stress and class 'have major impact' on premature birth

    30 Jun 98 | Health
    Diabetes could be linked to baby birthweight

    Internet Links

    Baby Online

    Breathing disorders in premature babies

    Potential complications in pregnancy

    The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites.

    In this section

    Disability in depth

    Spotlight: Bristol inquiry

    Antibiotics: A fading wonder

    Mental health: An overview

    Alternative medicine: A growth industry

    The meningitis files

    Long-term care: A special report

    Aids up close

    From cradle to grave

    NHS reforms: A guide

    NHS Performance 1999

    From Special Report
    NHS in crisis: Special report

    British Medical Association conference '99

    Royal College of Nursing conference '99