Skin-to-skin contact has been a gift of life for little Nellys

Her mother says that the Kangaroo Mother Program and the Care for Child Development activities have guided her on what to do to help her little girl develop.

Saiury Calcaño
08 August 2021

On Monday, May 17th, María Virginia, who works as a Police Sergeant, woke up and felt pain similar to contractions, something normal during her high-risk twin pregnancy. She took her medicine and followed her everyday routine. However, as evening fell, she was shocked by more intense pain and told her father to take her to the hospital.

When she arrived at the hospital, her blood pressure increased, she was put under anesthesia, and an emergency cesarean section was performed. Hours later, doctors were able to finish the surgery and deliver a boy and a girl, alive at just 28 weeks' gestation.

“When I woke up, I asked about them, and they told me that they were in the incubator and were receiving oxygen. I felt sad because I thought they were going to be born well, since weeks before I had received an injection to help their lungs mature”. She also told us that her greatest wish was to see them and hold them in her arms.

Mujer y su bebé
UNICEF/_CAM6755/Guerra

Little Nellys receives caresses from her mother María Virginia, while receiving recommendations from Dr. Cleotilde Matos, an expert counselor in Care for Child Development (CCD) and coordinator of the Mother Kangaroo Program at the San Lorenzo de Los Mina Maternal and Child Hospital in the Dominican Republic.

Two days later, she was finally able to see them and felt deeply sad when she saw the boy. He was too small and had lung problems. The following Friday, she was discharged, but her newborn children, Nellys Julianny and Julian Yoel remained in the hospital. María Virginia came every day between 11 in the morning until 1 in the afternoon, which were the allowed visiting hours. Julian had a lot of trouble breathing and, although he was still in intensive care and under constant monitoring, she was warned to prepare for the worst. The next day the boy passed away.

"I cried on the way to the hospital. I didn't think I would be able to see Julián Yoel again. I was never able to hold him in my arms ... he weighed only 930 grams," this 36-year-old woman narrates with nostalgia and courage.

Kangaroo mother

After that sad Monday when her son passed away, her daughter Nellys Julianny also got worse, and they connected her to a respirator. "At that moment, I promised myself that I had to be strong for her and regain my strength." Thanks to the guidance from health personnel on the Care for Child Development approach, María Virginia put a series of recommendations into practice. "I started to caress her, to talk to her, and she started to get better," she said with a slight smile.

Mujer y su bebé
UNICEF/_CAM6789/Guerra

María Virginia carries her baby following the recommendations of the Kangaroo Mother Program at the San Lorenzo de Los Mina Maternal and Child Hospital in the Dominican Republic.

Today, after 21 days in intensive care, Nellys Julianny finally left the incubator and is with her mother, who is happy to see her face to face and carry her in her arms.

“In the Intensive Care Unit, I could hardly see or touch her. Only two days ago, I carried her and was relieved to put her here on my chest. It was the first time I had seen her closely, and she immediately settled on my body. I felt an emotion that I cannot explain. I am delighted that she came out of the incubator; now I am her human incubator ”, she emphasized firmly.

Nellys Julianny, named after her two grandmothers, is now one month old, and although she is at the right weight, she does not suck well and is still a premature baby. That is why she entered the Kangaroo Mother Program because, even though she has been discharged, the doctors hope that she will gain a little more weight and learn to suck breast milk.

Her mother says that the Kangaroo Mother Program and the Care for Child Development activities have guided her on what to do to help her little girl develop.  

Mujer y su bebé
UNICEF/_CAM6803/Guerra

Little Nellys looks for her mother's gaze and follows her every move attentively.

Dr. Cleotilde Matos, a perinatologist pediatrician at the de Los Mina Maternal and Child Hospital, explains that Kangaroo Mother is a care strategy for premature children that revolves around skin-to-skin contact, breastfeeding, and the bond between the mother and the baby. Babies born prematurely regulate their temperature and heart rate by remaining in skin-to-skin contact with their mothers. The Care for Child Development (CCD) approach provides parents with strategies to stimulate them by providing nurturing and respectful care from birth, which complements the Kangaroo Mom Program. “The CCD approach creates a bond that gives the baby security. We teach the mothers to talk to their babies, to caress them, to look at them, to make them feel that they are loved, and their needs are acknowledged”, explains the specialist.

María Virginia thinks that human warmth and encouragement work. Nellys Julianny knows her mother's voice, she also opens her eyes and cries, something she did not do before.

The greatest wish of Maria Virginia, who is also mother to a 12-year-old girl and a 1-and-a-half-year-old boy is that “she can fend for herself, that she learns to breastfeed and that her sister and brother can be with her”. She looks at her baby, a survivor with large and alert eyes, who is aware of all her mother’s movements.

Mujer, su bebé y la doctora observando
UNICEF/_CAM6805/Guerra

María Virginia receives advice from Dr. Cleotilde Matos, an expert in Care for Child Development (CCD) and coordinator of the Kangaroo Mother Program at the San Lorenzo de Los Mina Maternal and Child Hospital in the Dominican Republic.