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Continuous Skin-to-Skin Contact Benefits Preemies Long Term

Last Updated: December 12, 2016.

"Kangaroo mother care" -- an intense version of care involving nearly round-the-clock skin-to-skin contact and exclusive or near-exclusive breastfeeding -- may extend and enhance the lives of premature and low birth weight infants well into adulthood, according to a study published online Dec. 12 in Pediatrics.

MONDAY, Dec. 12, 2016 (HealthDay News) -- "Kangaroo mother care" -- an intense version of care involving nearly round-the-clock skin-to-skin contact and exclusive or near-exclusive breastfeeding -- may extend and enhance the lives of premature and low birth weight infants well into adulthood, according to a study published online Dec. 12 in Pediatrics.

From 1993 to 1996, Nathalie Charpak, M.D., of the Kangaroo Foundation in Bogota, Colombia, and colleagues conducted the first randomized controlled trial showing that kangaroo mother care is as safe as incubator care. For the new study, Charpak and her team followed children from the earlier trial to see how they were faring. A social worker contacted the now-young adults from 2013 to 2014. Of the 716 original study participants, 264 young people, who weighed about 4 pounds or less at birth, were re-enrolled. The researchers compared their results with a control group of similar-weight preemies who received incubator care.

Those who received kangaroo mother care had a mortality rate less than half of those in the control group. They also had fewer school absences, a small but significant difference in intelligence, and higher hourly wages, the investigators found. They were also found to grow up in families that were more cohesive. However, they had lower math and language scores than the children receiving incubator care -- a finding Charpak's team had difficulty explaining.

"The findings of our 20-year kangaroo mother care study should inform the modalities of medical, psychological, and social postnatal interventions such as kangaroo mother care so that we can continue to reduce the disorders caused by prematurity and low birth weight," Charpak said in a news release from Grand Challenges Canada in Toronto. "We firmly believe that this is a powerful, efficient, scientifically-based health care intervention that can be used in all settings, from those with very restricted to unrestricted access to health care."

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