Skin-to-skin contact boosts the growth of Morish, a tiny baby born early
Kangaroo Mother Care supporting growth of preterm babies
The 15 November 2019 started just like any other day for 28-year-old Lucy Ayikoru – house chores and then a visit to the market. She was 30 weeks pregnant and didn’t expect her baby anytime soon. While at the market, she started experiencing lower abdominal pains, backache and then watery bleeding, all danger signs during pregnancy. The symptoms intensified, which prompted her to go to the nearest health facility, Omugo Health Centre IV, in Arua District. She was quickly admitted, which made her worried.
At Omugo, Ayikoru was welcomed by Sister Ndaru Beatrice, a nursing officer in midwifery and a beneficiary of the UNICEF-supported training in caring for small and sick babies, including Kangaroo Mother Care (KMC). KMC is a method of care of preterm babies, involving infants being carried, usually by the mother, with skin-to-skin contact. The trainings were made possible through funding from the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA).
To Ayikoru’s surprise, a few hours into admission, she was told her baby would be delivered that night. Scared and frightened, the first thought she had was,
“My baby might die because he/she is going to be very small.”
Together with her husband, the couple was counselled by Sister Ndaru who assured them that the baby would be okay if they followed the instructions provided. Ndaru was confident that the baby would live – she had the knowledge and skills to make this happen.
Through a Caesarian section, baby Aitaa Morish was born. He was tiny and only weighed 1.5 kilos. “He was small, weak, with mild asphyxia and a bit blue in colour,” said Sister Ndaru. “I immediately put the baby on her mother’s chest while she was still on the operating table. In just a few minutes, he stabilized, started breathing better and instantly turned a healthy pink.” She confirms that she learnt all this during the UNICEF training.
“If I hadn’t attended the training, this baby would have died. I didn’t have all this knowledge before,” says Sister Ndaru.
Small as he was, baby Morish was started on KMC, with both parents taking turns to carry the little one. “I told them that if they put the baby down, he would not live,” says Sister Ndaru.
The skin-to-skin contact brought quick results and after three weeks, baby Morish was stronger, showed a suckling reflex and was taken home.
Today, he weighs 3 kilos and still enjoys warmth on his mother’s chest in the comfort of their home.
“I am very happy to see his weight increasing, he has grown. I now feel like a mother,”
Baby Morish can now breastfeed, which he didn’t do before. After delivery, he was fed on expressed breastmilk because he couldn’t suckle. The health workers encouraged Ayikoru to breastfeed exclusively for faster results. Breastmilk is important for the optimal growth and development of full-term infants, and it’s even more important for vulnerable premature babies.
Benefits of the skin-to-skin contact of mother and baby
Sister Ndaru explains the benefits of skin-to-skin contact for mother and baby with a lot of passion. She has seen many babies, including Morish, saved by the KMC approach, especially in the critical few hours after delivery. She shares that KMC provides warmth for preterm babies, which subsequently supports the development of their lungs, helps them gain weight very fast, stabilizes their heart beat, stabilizes their breathing, creates bonding between the mother and child and above all, protects the small baby from infections because the baby is always on the mother’s chest and inaccessible to others. “It is like an incubator,” says Sister Ndaru.
“It has been a long journey for my son, but the nurses have helped us so much. I want him to grow into a strong baby boy,”
Ndaru is proud of the couple for looking after their son. She occasionally makes follow up visits to assess the growth of little Mosish and encourages Ayikoru to continue putting the baby on the chest for him to grow even faster and stronger.