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Skin-to-skin contact after birth can help reduce infant mortality

Posted:  Thursday, December 17, 2015

A mother’s touch has healing powers and it can give infants a new lease of life too. A new study finds that skin-to-skin contact between mother and baby after birth may reduce the risk of death in low birth weight infants.

The study, published in the journal Pediatrics, looked at former studies on skin-to-skin contact between mother and baby post birth. The studies totalling 124 were published between 2000–2014. Skin-to-skin contact, otherwise known as kangaroo mother care (KMC), entails keeping the newborn on the mother’s chest for skin contact as well as breastfeeding.

Interestingly, the researchers found that newborns who weighed less than 2,000 g (4.4 lbs) and received KMC had a 36% reduced mortality rate and a 47% lesser risk of major infection. They also showed better oxygen levels and head circumference growth, and lower pain measures. The added benefit was that the possibility of exclusive breastfeeding grew by 50% at hospital discharge.

What’s most encouraging is that the results were similar across low-, middle- and high-income countries. World over, the infant death toll is heavy with 4 million babies succumbing to death during their first month of life each year. Babies born prematurely or at a low birth weight are at most risk.

The post-birth contact is particularly deemed useful for low-birth weight babies born in low- and middle-income countries where the medical resources are scarce. The researchers emphasised the global impact of this study saying, “Developed and developing countries are moving to 'normalize' KMC or skin-to-skin as a beneficial practice for all newborns and mothers.”

What’s more KMC can benefit mothers a whole lot too. The skin-to-skin contact has been shown to positively influence stress levels in mothers and improve bonding, health and emotional wellness. The contact may also better interpersonal relations of parents and breastfeeding rates.

Ultimately, one may infer that for low birth weight infants, a mother’s bosom may well be the bridge to life.

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