MCFD: Kangaroo Mother Care program for premature babies in BC

Photo Credit: Unsplash User  Janko Ferlic

Photo Credit: Unsplash User Janko Ferlic

The BC Ministry of Children and Family Development (MCFD) have announced funding for premature babies and their parents throughout British Columbia to access Kangaroo Mother Care (KMC) whilst the new-borns are being cared for in a neonatal care unit (NICU). 

KMC is a skin-to-skin attachment program that has 40 years of evidence of long-term benefits for both mom and baby.  The baby is placed on the mother or partner’s bare chest wearing only a diaper, and the baby and mom are then secured in a wrap to facilitate the care. Ideally, Kangaroo Mother Care would take place 24/7; current standard of care involves sessions that last a minimum of 90 minutes.

 “By strengthening the bond between parent and child through skin-to-skin contact, Kangaroo Mother Care will allow us to support B.C.’s smallest and most vulnerable babies from the moment they are born,” said Katrine Conroy, Minister of Children and Family Development. “This early intervention will boost the health and well-being of these children and enable them to thrive, throughout their childhood and beyond.”

Each year, approximately 5,000 babies are born prematurely in B.C. Each child is at risk of long-term health and developmental issues, including hearing loss, problems with their vision, behavioural problems and neurological disorders like cerebral palsy. Mothers with premature infants are also significantly affected, with up to 70% experiencing postpartum depression, compared to around 15% for mothers who deliver their infants at full-term.

KMC has been demonstrated to have long-term benefits to families by reducing anxiety, stress and the risk of depression in both mother and child. It also helps to stabilize the baby’s temperature, promote parent-child attachment, and encourage breastfeeding.  Skin-to-skin contact is recommended for all new parents and infants, but KMC has been found to be particularly beneficial to premature babies. This program aims to increase the length of time babies spend skin-to-skin with mothers and their partners. 

“Kangaroo Mother Care is a low-tech, evidence-based intervention that promotes maternal and infant health, and can be practised in the hospital and at home,” said Dr. Tamil Kendall, provincial executive director of Perinatal Services BC.

The MCFD investment covers the cost of launching the program throughout B.C., including training and educational materials for nurses and parents. It will also help to provide wraps that support skin-to-skin contact, known as kangaroo mother baby wraps.

Until recently, NICU care has been focused on life-saving measures. A culture shift is taking place across neonatal care that incorporates life-saving interventions along with the integration of parents as partners in their baby’s care, through programs like KMC. This program supports health-care providers and parents in expanding their ability to provide this important component of the care experience, with a goal of improving outcomes for mothers and newborns. KMC has been shown to facilitate earlier hospital discharge.

The MCFD funding is being facilitated through the BC Women’s Hospital Foundation. Several other partners, including the Women’s Health Research Institute and Regional Health Authorities, have committed to work with Perinatal Services BC and BC Women’s Hospital to ensure the long-term success of the program.