Kangaroo ‘father’ care saving newborns in Rae Bareli
Life-saving gesture: Many fathers in Rae Bareli villages are doing what was once perceived as mothers’ duty. Over 200 men have saved their preterm/low birth weight newborns with this therapy.
Neeraj Kumar, a shopkeeper in Ram Sagar Nagar, is a little different from the other dads of his village – he is a ‘kangaroo- care’ giving father!
His 18-day-old daughter, Durga, weighed 1,840 gms at birth and required skin-to-skin care (Kangaroo Mother Care) to ensure she gained optimum weight fast.
But instead of his wife, Neeraj is doing the needful for the baby’s good health.
Pre-term or low birth weight babies – weighing less than 2,500 gms – are usually kept in an incubator to maintain body temperature and prevent hypothermia, a condition of having abnormally low body temperature. But, this function can be simply achieved by maintaining skin contact between the baby and the mother, father or any other care giver.
“I learned it (kangaroo care) at the health centre where the delivery took place and could do it from the very first day, though my wife Komal was apprehensive. This therapy really works,” said Neeraj, a graduate, who claims he can now teach KMC to other men also.
“It’s quite easy. Once my daughter got familiar, we spent over four hours in one KMC session,” says Dharmendra, 30, a daily wager from Bhawanigarh village, holding his child on the cot outside his hut. Dharmendra gives KMC twice a day – before leaving for work and on returning home.
His wife Dhandevi said, “As we two are the only adult members in the house, I use the time to do other work when he gives kangaroo care to the child.”
This couple’s daughter was born with a low weight of 900 grams in April. But KMC and proper nutrition helped the baby survive.
Like Dharmendra and Neeraj, many fathers in villages of Rae Bareli are doing what was once perceived as mothers’ duty, to save lives of newborn kids. Now, there are over 200 ‘KMC fathers’ who have saved their preterm/low birth weight newborns.
Usually in villages, men mostly stay away from the newborn (as they are out for work) while mothers take care of the child.
Kangaroo Mother Care (KMC) was introduced in the district by the Community Empowerment Lab (CEL) a year ago.
UP loses more than 2,00,000 newborn babies each year to preventable causes, one of which is poor care during the first 28 days of life.
“Usually babies with such low birth weight do not survive, particularly due to lack of facilities in the periphery, but KMC has proved a wonder for such kids,” said Anu, working with CEL.
Earlier, KMC was not known to even women in the region. Awareness about it was spread by Dr Vishwajeet Kumar, head of CEL, who started the skin-to-skin care therapy via community health centres (CHCs).
CEL developed KMC centres at all 10 CHCs in the district. “KMC is a technique that can prevent 25% of newborn deaths by harnessing the natural power of mothers to protect and nurture their babies by holding them in skin-to-skin contact,” said Dr Kumar.