The International Maternal Newborn Health Conference 2023
In the realm of maternal and neonatal health, the International Maternal Newborn Health Conference (IMNHC) 2023 is an important platform for advancing solutions and accelerating progress. This year, IMNHC was held in Cape Town, South Africa, after a hiatus of over eight years. The global gathering brought together over 1,700 stakeholders from around the world, united in their mission to improve maternal and newborn survival rates, prevent stillbirths, and achieve the ambitious targets described in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Key Takeaways from Maternova
Maternova representatives – Meg Wirth (Founder and Chief of Strategy at Maternova), Gabriela Salvador (CEO of Maternova), and myself participated in the conference to bridge the gap between stakeholders, facilitate dialogue, and drive scalable innovations. Below are my main takeaways from the conference with regards to the practice of kangaroo care:
Re-highlighting the effectiveness of the long-established technique of kangaroo care.
Kangaroo mother care (KMC) is a method of holding a newborn baby which involves prolonged skin-to-skin contact. During kangaroo care, the infant is placed in the upright position on a mother’s or father’s bare chest (1). This not only allows for a mother to play a central role in her newborn’s care and enables a strong bond to be developed between parents and their newborn, but this type of contact is also positive for a baby from a medical standpoint. For example, research shows that kangaroo care is an excellent method to stabilize a baby's heart and breathing rates. Although this method is relatively outdated in comparison to more recent advances in the realm of neonatal health, there is still a strong and accurate body of evidence that speaks to its effectiveness. Despite this, however, kangaroo care is not universally implemented, with the estimated global coverage being less than five percent. During the IMNHC conference, kangaroo care was a key topic of discussion, specifically with regards to including KMC in intensive care treatment.
A new position paper from the World Health Organization on kangaroo care.
The push during the conference to find ways to add KMC to standard practices while a newborn is in the NICU is supported by a new position paper that was just released by the World Health Organization (WHO). This paper was based on their extensive multi-country studies. The paper included several recommendations on the use of KMC which compose a new vision where KMC would serve as a foundation of care for small (preterm or low-birth weight LBW infants), and sick newborn care. New points made in the paper focused on KMC being implemented as soon as possible regardless of birth weight, and KMC being initiated in preterm newborns even if they require intensive care support, as previously KMC was only used following the NICU once newborns were determined to be stable. Overall, this document encouraged all countries to implement KMC more widely.
Kangaroo Mother Care Devices
During KMC, a blanket or shirt is typically placed around the parent and baby for warmth during long periods of skin-to-skin contact. While any piece of cloth can be used, Maternova offers a KMC device. While not very innovative, it is a beautiful piece to honor the special connection between parents and their newborn. The Kangaroo Support Mother Care Shirt is made up of natural materials, tested by real mothers in U.S. hospitals, and comes in various sizes to allow for use by parents of all sizes and genders. The shirt enables increased breastfeeding and skin-to-skin contact and is safe for all newborns even those who are premature.