Kangaroo Care: Family Therapy for the Health of Premature Babies


Kangaroo competition award ceremony. From left to right: János Gyarmati, regional perinatal manager, GE HealthCare; Dr. Csaba Nádor, neonatologist, Semmelweis University PIC Department; Tünde Afonyiné Kalló, vice president of the Melletted a Helyem Association; Jutas Szvilen Földvári, managing director of GE HealthCare; Anna Seltsam, application specialist, doctors and nurses of Aladdin-Medical and Semmelweis University PIC Department.

Photo by Attila Kovács – Semmelweis University

In Hungary, approximately 8,000 infants were delivered prematurely or with a birth weight below average annually over the past decade. Premature babies are exposed to many dangers and health risks, but with the help of Kangaroo care which relies on skin-to-skin contact, more and more can be done to ensure their healthy development. To raise awareness of the significance of this method, on the 2023 International Kangaroo Care Awareness Day the Melletted a helyem Association has initiated its eighth Kangaroo Competition between Perinatal Intensive Care Centres in the country. The grand prize of the competition was a special device from GE HealthCare, which can be used during kangarooing and was awarded by the organizers to the institution that used the method most actively.

What is Kangarooing?

As the name suggests, Kangaroo Mother Care (KMC) is a technique inspired by the world of animals, based on close physical contact between parent and child. Kangaroo care involves placing a premature infant on the bare chest of a family member participating in the therapy and then wrapping them in a blanket, creating a living incubator, a comfortable and safe space with appropriate temperature. In this "embrace", the newborn baby is placed in a nurturing and loving environment that is conducive to its healthy development.

"It has been well known for decades that healthcare, based on skin-to-skin contact, helps a lot in the recovery of premature and sick newborn babies. A technique that relies on this method is called the Kangaroo mother care (KMC), which has been shown to provide children with more stable vital signs such as improved respiratory rate, pulse and blood pressure. The method also has long-term positive benefits, among which it is essential to emphasize neurological development, including cognitive functions," said Dr. Csaba Nádor, neonatologist and President of the Melletted a Helyem Association.

However, how does a parent encounter Kangaroo care? Not long ago, Kornél Török and his wife went through a truly terrifying experience when labor unexpectedly started in October and their son arrived at just 27 weeks old. Although they weren’t sure about the consequences of a child born too early, they soon realized how much danger a premature baby could face.

The possibility of Kangaroo care was immediately raised at the hospital, and although they had never heard of the method before, they gave it a try on the advice of the doctors and nurses shortly after the birth of their baby. At first, they were worried and quite cautious, but it only took a few sessions to see how effective the technique was, as their child showed more and more progress every day, according to a press release sent to the Budapest Business Journal. They participated in the therapy for several weeks, taking turns holding their child for approximately two hours per session.

Kangarooing's effects have been the subject of numerous studies but there are precise rules for situations in which it is not permitted in a healthcare facility.

“In 2022, the World Health Organisation (WHO) issued a publication stating that KMC is considered a medication, so any restrictions on its use are therapeutic errors. The same holds true if the parent and their newborn are separated during treatments. It is important that skin-to-skin contact should not be interrupted during blue light therapy, for which GE HealthCare's Bilisoft device provides a great solution. “ - emphasized Dr. Nádor.

Promoting Kangaroo Care

Although Kangaroo care is increasingly utilized during neonatal therapies in Hungary, unfortunately, it is still not available at many healthcare facilities, The aim of the Melletted a Helyem Association is to promote and raise awareness of the importance of kangarooing for premature babies. On International Kangaroo Care Awareness Day, they have therefore held a competition between Perinatal Intensive Care Centers in the country for a number of years. The grand prize in this year's eighth edition of the competition was GE HealthCare's BiliSoft medical device for blue light phototherapy, which can also be used during kangarooing.

"Melletted a Helyem Association is outstanding in the field of good practice in premature care due to the high quality of their operations and enormous amount of energy they invest. Today, premature care focuses not only on preserving the infant's life but also on assuring that they will grow into a healthy child and adult. It is essential to involve the parents in these healthcare practices, such as kangarooing," said János Gyarmati, regional perinatal manager of GE HealthCare.

"This therapy can create close contact between child and family member, called high-touch. With the grand prize awarded to the Premature Intensive Care Unit of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology of Semmelweis University, the GE HealhCare Bilisoft device helps to remove the barriers to bonding between the infant and the parent or caregiver. During the therapy, the baby can be placed on the chest of their loved ones, fed, and even rocked, ensuring that a beneficial environment is created without having to miss out on the benefits of kangaroo therapy," he added.

The Kangaroo Competition in 2023 was won by the Premature Intensive Care Unit of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology of Semmelweis University, Korányi PIC, where the association handed the GE HealthCare phototherapy device at a ceremony held this month. The competition assessed the institution's outstanding performance, which involved the treatment of Zalán, one of the premature babies in their care, receiving kangaroo therapy just two days after his birth, at 24 weeks old.

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