Posted on May 16, 2016

Women’s Hospital – a member of Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC) - this week recognized International Kangaroo Care Day to highlight efforts by its clinicians to encourage pre-term babies’ mothers to make skin-to-skin contact with their tiny babies in order to speed up their recovery process.

An important practice in the Neonatal intensive Care Unit (NICU), Kangaroo Care is strongly encouraged for pre-term or low birth weight infants. This practice centers around parents having skin to skin contact with their baby by placing them on their chest using a blanket over the baby's back to keep him/her warm. “Kangaroo Care plays an integral part in a baby’s recovery process. The warmth of a mother’s skin, the comfort of her smell and the sound of her steady heartbeat and breathing, will provide comfort to her baby. It will also help improve a baby’s oxygen levels and regulate their heart rate and breathing,” said Dr. Hilal Al Rifai, Medical Director of Women’s Hospital and Director of Neonatal/Perinatal Services at HMC.

Studies show that this mother-baby bonding technique helps babies to gain weight more rapidly, reduces infection, helps regulate their sleep cycles, promotes breastfeeding and ultimately aids in enabling an earlier discharge from hospital so that babies can be together with their family. In Women’s Hospital, clinicians run a morning class for parents where they are shown how to practice Kangaroo Care with their baby. The effectiveness of Kangaroo Care was highlighted when Chloe was delivered by emergency C-section at 26 weeks gestation at Women’s Hospital when her parents, Andrea and Tim Sharpe, were visiting friends working in Qatar.

“Our plan to visit some friends in Qatar took an unexpected turn when I went into premature labor,” said Andrea.Chloe’s sudden birth was unexpected and our world was turned upside down. Thankfully, we were in the perfect place to receive the very best in neonatal care. With the help of the doctors, nurses and other staff in the Women’s Hospital’s NICU, our tiny baby girl grew stronger each day,” added Andrea. “For the one hour I was practicing Kangaroo Care, the nurses told me to ignore the monitors and concentrate on the feeling of Chloe’s skin, her breath, her smell, her noises and her weight on my chest. It was scary at first holding my fragile baby on me, but after a few times, it gave me comfort knowing Chloe was responding and her health was improving by feeling my skin on hers.”

Chloe suffered from premature labor. During her early days in the NICU, she would stop breathing while sleeping, had suspected infections, high temperatures and required a blood transfusion. “The NICU staff provided us with constant support while we were in their care. The Occupational Therapists helped us get Chloe to take a bottle and finally to breastfeed and the nurses showed us the importance of practicing Kangaroo Care, a practice I am convinced really helped with Chloe’s recovery.”