While Nigeria ranks highest in Africa for neonatal deaths and delivery of almost a million preterm/ low birth weight babies, MamaYe, an evidence-based accountability organisation, has advocated for the adoption of Kangaroo Mother Care (KMC) method to save the lives of preterm babies and other newborns.
A Professor of Neonatology, Department of Paediatrics, Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH), Prof. Chinyere Ezeaka, who gave the advise during MamaYe’s training for Health Journalists on KMC in Lagos, described the life saving method as an affordable alternative to incubator care which is expensive, stressing that the dearth of incubators in most Nigerian hospitals have caused the death of millions of preterm babies.
According to her, KMC follows the pattern of a newborn kangaroo called a “joey”, which is delivered always at preterm, and immediately crawls into the mother’s pouch for warmth. “In the pouch, it attaches itself to the breasts for four to five weeks till it matures. This provides warmth and the right temperature to the joey till it is able to live on its own. This is a good alternative to incubators for humans, especially in a country like Nigeria where they are lacking,” she said.
Ezeaka, who is also the President, Nigerian Society of Neonatal Medicine said each year, 11 per cent of the world’s babies were born too soon, resulting in about 15 million preterm babies. “Nigeria ranks third among countries with the highest number of preterm births globally with an annual rate of about 773,600.
“Preterm is a cause of death and risk factor to neonatal mortality; 31 per cent of newborn deaths in Nigeria are directly due to complications of preterm birth that when combined with effects of low birth weight is an indirect cause in up to 80 per cent of newborn deaths in the country.”
She lamented that underlying causes of preterm births include poverty, lack of awareness, poor or no antenatal care, and poor/no access to skilled health providers, among others.
According to her, KMC involves a mother holding her child close to her breast – skin to skin – while covering the baby’s head, body and feet to prevent heat loss for several hours daily.
“The method enables bonding between mother and child, creates warmth for the baby, and allows suckling, unlike backing a baby that does not provide the same effect. Fathers and other members of the family can be involved in the practice to ensure the baby survives.”
While decrying that majority of Nigerians were yet to embrace the life saving practise, she explained that hospitals, media, health bodies and stakeholders should continuously educate the citizens on the practise.