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Kangaroo Alternative to Dangerous Incubators for Preemies

Sometimes, advances don’t come from looking ahead, but from looking back. When the Mother and Child Institute in Bogota, Colombia, found itself short on doctors, nurses, and incubators, Dr. Edgar Rey decided to try something new -- or rather, something old.

What he came up with is known as “kangaroo care”. In this system, the mother of a premature infant puts the baby on her exposed chest. The baby is dressed only in a diaper and sometimes a cap, is kept in an upright or semi-upright position, and has all but its head covered by its mother’s shirt. The baby’s temperature is regulated by the sympathetic biological responses that occur when a mother and infant are in close physical contact -- the mother’s breasts actually heat up or cool down.

According to the New York Times:

“Kangaroo care has been widely studied. A trial in a Bogota hospital of 746 low birth weight babies randomly assigned to either kangaroo or conventional incubator care found that the kangaroo babies had shorter hospital stays, better growth of head circumference and fewer severe infections ... A conservative summary of the evidence to date is that kangaroo care is at least as good as conventional treatment -- and perhaps better.”

In related news, the FDA has issued a warning against breast milk sharing -- breast milk obtained, often over the internet, from mothers who have a surplus. The FDA suggests obtaining breast milk only from sources that guarantee screening for infectious diseases. I wish they were as concerned about major problems, such as giving children infant formula, which is more often than not feeding infants garbage.