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Physiological and psychological outcomes of kangaroo mother care of preterm infants–an overview

International Journal of Pregnancy & Child Birth
Krisha Changrani,1 Samuel Menahem2,3

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Background: Neonatal care especially for premature infants may require varying periods of intensive care which may limit parental involvement. Kangaroo mother care (KMC) allows for close contact between mother and infant, widely used by Indigenous populations but now introduced into neonatal nurseries. This paper reviews the growing literature highlighting the physiological and psychological impact of its introduction in the care of preterm infants.

Methods: A brief introduction of current practices in the care of preterm infants is followed by discussing the rationale of KMC. The benefits or otherwise of such care is reviewed, drawing on the current literature. Future avenues of study are suggested.

Results: KMC has been successfully undertaken of preterm infants. Such care improved the infant’s circulatory physiological parameters which included heart rate variability, oxygen saturations and temperature control. There also appeared to be a reduction in pain scores during uncomfortable neonatal procedures. An increase in successful breastfeeding, improved maternal-infant interaction and better neurodevelopmental progress has also been observed. Further study may utilise vital signs to affirm clinical outcomes. The administration of the relatively straight forward measure of the Alarm Distress Baby Scale may objectively assess infant well-being and their resultant social interactions.

Conclusion: The current literature suggests multiple benefits for preterm infants exposed to KMC with improvement in physiological parameters and developmental outcomes. It also empowers mothers to be more intimately involved with their infants. These reported findings encourage the safe introduction of KMC into further nurseries.


kangaroo mother care, preterm infants, skin-to-skin contact, pain relief, breastfeeding, development