Kangaroo mother care to reduce morbidity and mortality in low birthweight infants

A Conde-Agudelo, J L Diaz-Rossello, J M Belizan
Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2003, (2): CD002771

BACKGROUND: Kangaroo mother care (KMC), defined as skin-to-skin contact between a mother and her newborn, frequent and exclusive or nearly exclusive breastfeeding, and early discharge from hospital, has been proposed as an alternative to conventional neonatal care for low birthweight (LBW) infants.

OBJECTIVES: To determine whether there is evidence to support the use of KMC in LBW infants as an alternative to conventional care after the initial period of stabilization with conventional care.

SEARCH STRATEGY: We used the standard search strategy of the Neonatal Review Group of the Cochrane Collaboration. MEDLINE, EMBASE, LILACS, POPLINE and CINAHL databases (to December 2002), and the Cochrane Controlled Trials Register (The Cochrane Library), were searched using the key words terms "kangaroo mother care" or "kangaroo care" or "kangaroo mother method" or "skin-to-skin contact" and "infants" or "low birthweight infants".

SELECTION CRITERIA: Randomized trials comparing KMC and conventional neonatal care in LBW infants.

DATA COLLECTION AND ANALYSIS: Trial quality was assessed and data were extracted independently by two reviewers. Statistical analysis was conducted using the standard Cochrane Collaboration methods.

MAIN RESULTS: Three studies, involving 1362 infants, were included. All the trials were conducted in developing countries. The studies were of moderate to poor methodological quality. The most common shortcomings were in the areas of blinding procedures for those who collected the outcomes measures, handling of drop outs, and completeness of follow-up. The great majority of results consist of results of a single trial. KMC was associated with the following reduced risks: nosocomial infection at 41 weeks' corrected gestational age (relative risk 0.49, 95% confidence interval 0.25 to 0.93), severe illness (relative risk 0.30, 95% confidence interval 0.14 to 0.67), lower respiratory tract disease at 6 months follow-up (relative risk 0.37, 95% confidence interval 0.15 to 0.89), not exclusively breastfeeding at discharge (relative risk 0.41, 95% confidence interval 0.25 to 0.68), and maternal dissatisfaction with method of care (relative risk 0.41, 95% confidence interval 0.22 to 0.75). KMC infants had gained more weight per day by discharge (weighted mean difference 3.6 g/day, 95% confidence interval 0.8 to 6.4). Scores on mother's sense of competence according to infant stay in hospital and admission to NICU were better in KMC than in control group (weighted mean differences 0.31 [95% confidence interval 0.13 to 0.50] and 0.28 [95% confidence interval 0.11 to 0.46], respectively). Scores on mother's perception of social support according to infant stay in NICU were worse in KMC group than in control group (weighted mean difference -0.18 (95% confidence interval -0.35 to -0.01). Psychomotor development at 12 months' corrected age was similar in the two groups. There was no evidence of a difference in infant mortality. However, serious concerns about the methodological quality of the included trials weaken credibility in these findings.

REVIEWER'S CONCLUSIONS: Although KMC appears to reduce severe infant morbidity without any serious deleterious effect reported, there is still insufficient evidence to recommend its routine use in LBW infants. Well designed randomized controlled trials of this intervention are needed.

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