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Dec 23, 2015 07:09 AM EST

'Kangaroo-Style' care may benefit newborns' health

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According to a new analysis of previous research, babies born with a low birth weight who are regularly held by their mothers skin-to-skin, called the "kangaroo style", may have a lower risk of dying prematurely, Live science reports.

The researchers reviewed 124 studies that examined the relationship between skin-to-contact with the mother and the health of newborn babies.

The paper appeared online December 22, 2015 in Pediatrics.

"While [kangaroo mother care], or skin-to-skin care, is particularly useful for low-birth-weight babies born where medical resources are limited, developed and developing countries are moving to 'normalize' [kangaroo mother care] or skin-to-skin as a beneficial practice for all newborns and mothers," Dr. Grace Chan, co-author of the analysis and an instructor at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, said in a statement.

The researchers found that newborns born at a low birth weight had a 36 percent lower chance of dying prematurely when they received kangaroo care, compared with low-birth-weight newborns who did not receive such care.

"While [kangaroo mother care], or skin-to-skin care, is particularly useful for low-birth-weight babies born where medical resources are limited, developed and developing countries are moving to 'normalize' [kangaroo mother care] or skin-to-skin as a beneficial practice for all newborns and mothers," Dr. Grace Chan, co-author of the analysis and an instructor at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, said in a statement.

Chan said that even though some data suggests that more than 22 hours per day of continuous skin-to-skin contact is beneficial, but "that's really hard to do". She added that between 8 and 12 hours probably would be helpful.

The researchers were also not clear why kangaroo mother care might be beneficial for the babies. One explanation could be that the closeness to the mother protects the baby from coming in contact with infection causing organisms. Another explanation could be that the with the kangaroo care, mother can spot signs of infection early on and seek medical attention.

According to Medical Daily, Ruth Feldman, a researcher at Bar-Ilan University in Israel and Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut, who wasn't involved in the study, said

"Maternal deprivation during the critical post-birth period carries detrimental long term effects for all mammalian young.

Provision of the mother's physical proximity can counter some of the adverse side effects of premature birth."

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