When Vasilije feels his mother's touch, he calms down
The Neonatology Centre of the Institute for Childhood Diseases in Podgorica is implementing kangaroo care (skin-to-skin contact), which strengthens the bond between mother and baby and positively affects early childhood development.
Podgorica, 29 June 2023 – When Vasilije was born in mid-May, he weighed 870 grams. As a prematurely born baby, he was referred to the Neonatology Centre of the Institute for Childhood Diseases in Podgorica.
A team of doctors and medical staff takes care of him, while his mother Bojana visits him every day. In a semi-reclining position, in a specially adapted armchair for mothers and babies, she holds the boy against her chest and gently pats his head.
“You see, when I press him against my skin, he immediately calms down,” Bojana says.
She gave birth in the 29th week of pregnancy because the baby ran out of amniotic fluid. She says it was a source of great stress for her. Now she is calm and smiling because the baby's condition has stabilized. She has started practising kangaroo care, which involves direct skin-to-skin contact between the baby and the mother.
This approach has been proved to be effective and is recommended by the World Health Organization for the care of low-birth-weight babies and prematurely born babies.
“Sometimes it lasts shorter, and sometimes longer, depending on the conditions and how he feels about it,” Bojana tells us.
She explains that stays in hospital are still traumatic for him, although he does not feel this now.
That is why I am here – to make this period easier for him, so that he can feel closeness with his mother through this skin-to-skin contact, and for us to bond better.
In addition to facilitating emotional bonding between parent and baby, kangaroo care positively affects the duration of breastfeeding, weight gain, the physiological stability of the baby, as well as overall brain development and maturation. It also shortens the baby’s hospital stay.
Kangaroo care has been shown to reduce mortality by over 50 per cent in newborns weighing less than 2,000 grams compared to conventional care. These findings have been particularly confirmed in low- and middle-income countries.
Dr. Lidija Banjac, the head of the Neonatology Centre, explains that babies born prematurely are, during their most intensive developmental phase, particularly vulnerable and overwhelmed by numerous stimuli from the external environment that they cannot cope with, such as noise, light and pain.
We are introducing various components of developmental care, tailored to each child, in order to significantly improve the clinical course, reduce the frequency of infections and shorten hospitalization.
Developmental care involves creating conditions similar to those that the baby has experienced in the womb. It is desirable to minimize the noise and light on the ward, to avoid disturbing the baby, prevent pain, ensure frequent and extended contact with parents, and provide support in an incubator to limit movements the same way they are limited in the womb.
Dr. Banjac explains that kangaroo care, as one of the components of developmental care, contributes to the relaxation of both the baby and the mother.
A bond is established between them. The child calms down and feels safe. This cannot be easily measured by parameters, but it is noticeable that a prematurely born baby is more content after contact with the parent and then copes with pain and illness more easily.
This approach has recently been implemented at the Neonatology Centre.
“We are now starting to implement developmental care for children who are not on mechanical ventilation. The experience we gain will facilitate its implementation even for children on mechanical ventilation. Thanks to UNICEF, we will soon have ‘tube-tops’, which will facilitate physical contact between the mother and child,” Dr. Banjac explains.
Her team makes appointments for mothers and fathers who visit their children and are practising kangaroo care, ensuring that all procedures important for the care of infants in incubators are followed. Studies also show that this approach can reduce the workload of medical staff.
The equipment for the Neonatology Centre, including incubators, ventilators and armchairs for kangaroo care, was donated by members of UNICEF’s Business Council. To ensure that equipment donations are accompanied by good practices, UNICEF provided training in kangaroo care for the staff of the Neonatology Centre and organized a study visit to healthcare institutions in Zagreb, which was financially supported by UNICEF.
This example clearly demonstrates how the private sector, by partnering with UNICEF, can directly support institutions in financing the most critical equipment needs and ensuring best practices in childcare.
UNICEF’s Business Council brings together representatives of the private sector in order to combine efforts and resources for socially responsible initiatives that will lead to concrete, sustainable and positive changes in children’s lives.
This was the first action of UNICEF’s Business Council supported by all Rotary Clubs in Montenegro, as well as the companies One, M:TEL, Crnogorski Telekom, Crnogorska komercijalna banka, NLB banka, Lovćen banka, Merkator, the Airports of Montenegro, the Chamber of Economy of Montenegro, the Montenegrin Foreign Investors Council, and the Association of Managers of Montenegro. The action was also supported by the International Women’s Club of Montenegro.