Healthy preemies and confident parents in Ukraine
After spending several days in a nearby neonatal intensive care unit, Irina and Oleg were referred to Kyiv's National Children's Ohmatdet Hospital, where JSI's Maternal & Infant Health Project, funded by USAID, has helped introduce a program called Kangaroo Mother Care. Kangaroo Mother Care helps healthy, but vulnerable, preterm infants gain weight and become stronger while bonding closely with their parents.
In Ukraine, 5.3% of all babies are born prematurely. Premature babies are at risk for serious health problems including hypothermia, breathing difficulties, and difficulty feeding.
Kangaroo Mother Care encourages constant skin-to-skin contact between caregiver and child. Wearing just a diaper, socks, and a hat, the baby is placed across the caregiver's bare chest and is covered with a blanket. This process keeps the baby warmer and less stressed than it would be in a standard hospital incubator. In the case of twins, both babies are snuggled skin-to-skin at the same time. Parents record daily feedings, temperatures, weight gain, and diaper changes on their baby's easy-to-use medical chart.
Oleg admits that, at first, he didn't know what to expect from Kangaroo Mother Care. When he arrived at Ohmatdet Hospital, Oleg was nervous about handling his tiny babies. The staff worked with Oleg to quickly get him up to speed with the process. Now Oleg enjoys skin-to-skin contact with Dmitri and Alexandra so much that he plans to continue Kangaroo Care at home.
Irina enjoys the process, too, "At the other hospital, we were not allowed to hold our babies for more than one hour a day. Here, we hold our babies for ten to twelve hours a day."
After five weeks of Kangaroo Mother Care, the twins have each gained more than two pounds and are beginning to breastfeed normally. Meanwhile, their parents have gained the confidence they need to care for their babies on their own.