After a successful rollout of the Kangaroo mothercare system in all 27 district hospitals in the country, officials are now targeting health centres countrywide.
Kangaroo mothercare is a technique whereby the mother places her newborn – usually premature – on her chest, between her breasts and ties a cloth around it. The baby is wrapped in a gown, tailored to resemble a kangaroo’s pouch all day until it is in good health and size.
The technique allows for skin-to-skin contact between mother and baby and offers affordable and effective alternative to incubator care.
According to Dr Fidel Ngabo, the coordinator of maternal and child health in the Ministry of Health, the system has been effective in reducing premature deaths and generally helping under-weight babies.
“We want to scale up this method to health centres as well because it’s been found to be very effective,” he said.
Dr Stephenson Musiime, a paediatrician at King Faisal Hospital, Rwanda, said the system, in most cases, is better than incubators, especially if the baby’s weight is the problem.
Dr Musiime said the system is being taught to people to adopt it in case of low birth weight [children born weighing less than 2.5 kilogrammes].
“Mothers and some medics are being trained how the system works. The Kangaroo mothercare system helps to regulate the neonate’s temperature more easily than an incubator,” he said.
The method, which provides ready access to breastfeeding, originated in Colombia in 1978, and has since been proven successful in countries such as Haiti and Vietnam. Kangaroo Mother-Services in Rwanda started in 2008.
A mother’s experience
Marceline Nyirantore has spent a month in the Kangaroo mothercare ward at Kibagabaga Hospital. When she gave birth at six months of pregnancy, the baby was 1.5 kilogrammes and looked so tiny.
“There is remarkable improvement. She has put on a little more weight, looks healthier and loves feeding. Every time they put her in an incubator, she loses some grammes,” she said.
Nyirantore said she can easily monitor her baby’s health and any changes with the Kangaroo method since she always has her close to her chest.