What Exactly are the Benefits of KMC and how do they Work?
Many medical studies have been performed to establish exactly what the benefits of Kangaroo Mother Care are for both mother and baby (preterm and full term). These studies have consistently proven immense benefits and demonstrated exactly what those benefits are and how they happen - you can find links to many of these studies below and we can summarise their findings as follows:
Improved Neurodevelopmental Outcomes - Infants cared for with KMC have better mental development.
"Infants who receive KMC score higher on the Mental Development Index and Psychomotor Development Index of the Bayley Scales of Infant Development both at 6 months and 12 Months when compared with infants who received conventional Care." (1)
"SSC accelerates brain maturation in healthy preterm infants" (2)
"Kangaroo Mother Care positively influenced the premature brain networks and synaptic efficacy up to adolescence." (3)
Improved Physical Developmental Outcomes - Infants cared for with KMC grow more quickly and establish physiological self regulation more quickly.
"KMC infants gained more weight per day (typical MD 3.7 g, 95% CI 1.9 to 5.6; 10 trials, 1072 infants), and length (typical MD 0.29 cm, 95% CI 0.27 to 0.31; two trials, 251 infants) and head circumference (typical MD 0.18 cm, 95% CI 0.09 to 0.27; three trials, 369 infants) per week than controls [non-KMC*]" (4)
"...evidence suggests that the kangaroo position has a positive influence on the motor activity in newborns…" (5)
"KC increases sleep time, including time spent in quiet sleep. At term, preterm infants who have received KC during their stay in the NICU demonstrate longer periods of quiet sleep and alert wakefulness, shorter periods of active sleep, and more organized sleep-wake cyclicity when compared with infants who did not, suggesting more rapid improvement in state organisation. These infants are also more alert and responsive, and less irritable and fussy." (6)
Easier Establishment of Breastfeeding and Longer Duration of Breastfeeding - Mothers who practise KMC find breastfeeding more easy and infants cared for with KMC are 8 times more likely to breastfeed within 60 minutes post birth and breastfeed for longer.
"Babies breastfed more successfully during SSC immediately postbirth than if they were held swaddled in blankets, probably because of the extra tactile, odor, and thermal cues provided by SSC" (4)
"KC is associated with a longer duration of breastfeeding, higher volumes of milk expressed, higher exclusive breastfeeding rates…" (6)
"Mothers of KMC infants were more likely to be breastfeeding at discharge ...Compared with conventional care, KMC was associated with an increase in the likelihood of exclusive breastfeeding at discharge" (4)
"Infants who are allowed uninterrupted SSC immediately after birth and who self-attach to the mother's nipple may continue to nurse more effectively. Effective nursing increases milk production and infant weight gain" (4)
Improved Psychological and Emotional Wellbeing for Mother - KMC causes the release of the (relaxation) hormone Oxytocin and a reduction in the (stress) hormone cortisol in mothers.
"SSC through sensory stimuli such as touch, warmth, and odor is a powerful stimulant, which among other effects releases maternal oxytocin… SSC also lowers maternal stress levels...Oxytocin antagonizes the flight-fight effect, decreasing maternal anxiety and increasing calmness and social responsiveness...SSC outcomes for mothers suggest improved bonding/attachment... other outcomes are increased sense of mastery and self-enhancement, resulting in increased confidence." (4)
"Mothers who have had the opportunity to provide KC for their infants describe feelings of being needed, increased confidence in knowing their infants and a sense of their role as a mother." (6)
"...analysis showed the positive effects of KMC on the rate of maternal mental health scores. There were statistically significant differences between the mean scores of the experimental group and control subjects." (7)
Enhanced Bonding and Attachment - Mothers and fathers who practise KMC feel a stronger attachment and bond with their infants and are better able to interpret infant cues.
"Near the time of discharge home, mothers were observed to look at and touch their infant more frequently, show more positive affect and be more adaptive to their infant’s signals than did mothers who had not provided KC. When followed after discharge, these same mothers, as well as fathers, provided a better home environment and were more sensitive to their infant." (8)
"...maintenance of the maternal milieu following birth is required to elicit innate behaviors from the neonate [newborn*] and the mother that lead to successful breastfeeding, and thus survival. Separation from this milieu results in immediate distress cries (Alberts 1994) and "protest-despair" behavior. Human infants placed in a cot cry 10 times more than SSC infants." (6)
1 Canadian Paediatric Society: http://www.cps.ca/en/documents/position/kangaroo-care-for-preterm-infant
2 An Analysis of the Kangaroo Care Intervention using neonatal EEG complexity: a preliminary study. Kaffashi F1, Scher MS, Ludington-Hoe SM, Loparo KA: https://www.clinph-journal.com/article/S1388-2457(12)00546-9/abstract
3 Cerebral motor function in very premature-at-birth adolescents: a brain stimulation exploration of kangaroo mother care effects. Schneider C1, Charpak N, Ruiz-Peláez JG, Tessier R http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22734793
4 Early skin-to-skin contact for mothers and their healthy newborn infants Elizabeth R Moore,1 Gene C Anderson,2 Nils Bergman,3 and Therese Dowswell4https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3979156/
5 Electromyographic activity of preterm newborns in the kangaroo position: a cohort study Rafael Moura Miranda,1 José Eulálio Cabral Filho,1 Kaísa Trovão Diniz,1 Geisy Maria Souza Lima,2 and Danilo de Almeida Vasconcelos1 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4212184/
6 Kangaroo care for the preterm infant and familyAL Jefferies; Canadian Paediatric Society, Fetus and Newborn Committee
7 The effect of kangaroo mother care on mental health of mothers with low birth weight infants. Badiee Z1, Faramarzi S2, MiriZadeh T2. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25371871
8 Feldman R, Eidelman AI, Sirota L, Weller A. Comparison of skin-to-skin (kangaroo) and traditional care: Parenting outcomes and preterm infant development. http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/110/1/16