Do not let them separate you

images-7“Do not let them separate you” is the name of a campaign to favour the «skin to skin» contact of the newborn baby with the mother as soon as it is born, the so called Kangaroo Method.

The main message of the campaign is that the newborn should not necessarily be separated from its mother systematically. Nowadays, in fact, babies are still being separated from the mothers immediately after birth, either by routine in some hospitals, or by the inertia acquired in specific needs.

What is the Kangaroo Method? The Kangaroo Mother Method is based on keeping, at least during the first hours, a “skin to skin” permanent contact between the mother and the newborn baby. During this period of time important benefits are achieved, not only for the babies but also for the mothers. In the moment of the childbirth, several substances are segregated which make the baby to be, in the two first hours, in a state of calm alert. This state facilitates the early recognition of the mother’s smell, which is very important to establish the bond and the adaptation to the postnatal environment. It has been proved that the Kangaroo Method diminishes the neonate’s stress and accelerates its metabolic adaptation, by regulating its temperature and glucose blood level, amongst many other advantages. Besides, it favours the initiation to maternal lactation in the first 30 minutes of life, such as it is recommended by the World Health Organisation (WHO) in its initiative “Baby-friendly Hospitals”. For mothers, it increases the confidence in themselves and diminishes the post-birth bleeding because of an increase of oxytocin. This hormone is segregated even with the simple contact with the baby, and it facilitates a better contraction of the uterus.

The Kangaroo Method is called this way because it imitates those animals in their process of gestation. Kangaroos, in very early phases of their development, are in direct contact with the mother inside the marsupial sac, which works in a similar way to an incubator. And how is it that we imitate the kangaroos? As in so many other things, necessity turns into the engine of evolution: in the year 1978, in Bogota (Colombia), in order to palliate the lack of health resources, mums were used like incubators 24 hours a day to try keeping the babies’ normal body temperature. Then they checked that not only babies regulated their temperature properly, but that the method had other important advantages as well.

It is recommended, then, that all newborn babies stay in skin-to-skin contact with their mothers, drying them and covering them with a blanket or towel which has been previously heated to prevent the loss of heat. During these first minutes, the midwife or the pediatricians keep the vital signs of the baby under control (colour, respiratory movements, muscular tone and heart rate) interfering as less as possible in the relationship between the mother and her baby. If the mother were not able to do this, the father can also take this role. Only if some warning sign is observed the baby is placed in the thermal cradle for a better control.

The Kangaroo Method is not only a fashionable thing. Although nowadays less than a fourth of the Spanish Neonatal Units follow this method, all the hospitals of other European countries like Great Britain or Sweden have been implementing it for years. In fact, the WHO and the Health Ministry recommend it.

Thus, from the Pediatrics Unit of the Medimar International Hospital we encourage the protagonists (parents and professionals) to consider the childbirth as something natural and to implement this method whenever it is possible. As the French writer Bernardin of Saint-Pierre said, “nature is big in the big things, but is greater in the smallest ones”.

Published on 18 March 2013 in Diario Informacion of Alicante.