Mark Woods: Family Matters

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It wasn’t that long ago that the question – what day is it? – had one meaning and a maximum of seven answers.

Things have changed now though. Each and every day has a meaning now, a purpose if it’s own, something to celebrate and mark, raise the awareness of or herald. Tomorrow for instance is Goth Day and then on Saturday we have its polar opposite, Tiara Day.

Last Thursday was one of those days, although chances are it passed you by – allow me to introduce you to International Kangaroo Care Awareness Day. Despite the welfare of marsupials being high on my agenda it has nothing to do with our pouched friends, but the rather a way of helping sick babies based around skin-to-skin contact between a parent and their pre-term baby. The often tiny child is held in an upright position against the parent’s bare chest – similar to the way a Joey clings to its mother – for multiple periods throughout the day. The method was dreamt up in adversity, as many great advances are, back in 1978. Colombian paediatrician Edgar Rey, in response to woefully inadequate and limited incubator care in the Bogota hospital where he worked, began to tuck infants into the gowns of their mothers in lieu of any other way of helping them.

The results were instant and from those humble beginnings kangaroo care has blossomed to become a modern miracle of early child care – albeit one based on ancient principles.

Research has made clear that the method is more than an alternative to incubator care, proving to be an effective way to maintaining body temperature, stimulating breastfeeding and bonding irrespective of setting, weight, gestational age, and clinical conditions.

It has spread way beyond South America – my premature son benefited from it – and it is now being used on full-term babies too with similar results.The only fly in the ointment is that in developed countries it’s not being used enough due to ready access of incubators and technology and people not being aware of its benefits. If ever something deserved a day, it’s the amazing Colombian Kangaroos!

Twitter @mark_r_woods

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