Keeping newborns warm: beliefs, practices and potential for behaviour change in rural Ghana

Trop Med Int Health. 2010 Oct;15(10):1118-24. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-3156.2010.02593.x.


Summary objectives: This study aimed to collect data on thermal care practices in rural Ghana to inform the design of a community newborn intervention.

Methods: All 635 women who delivered in six districts in Ghana in the first 2 weeks of December 2006 were interviewed about immediate newborn care. Qualitative data on thermal care practices and barriers and facilitators to behaviour change were collected from recently delivered/pregnant women, birth attendants/grandmothers, and husband through birth narratives, in-depth interviews and focus group discussion.

Results: Respondents knew that keeping the baby warm was essential for health but 71% of babies born at home had delayed drying, 79% delayed wrapping, 93% early bathing and 10% were placed skin-to-skin. Birth attendants were usually in charge of mother and baby immediately after birth. Delays in drying/wrapping were linked to leaving the baby unattended until the placenta was delivered. Early bathing was linked to reducing body odour in later life, shaping the baby's head, and helping the baby sleep and feel clean. Respondents thought that changing bathing behaviours would be difficult, especially as babies are bathed early in facilities. The concept of skin-to-skin care was easily understood and most women said they would try it if it was good for the baby.

Conclusion: Thermal care is a key component of community newborn interventions, the design of which should be based on an understanding of current behaviours and beliefs. Formative research can help select focus behaviours, decide who to include in interventions, ensure consistent messages and determine what messages and approaches are needed to overcome behaviour change barriers.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Body Temperature*
  • Female
  • Ghana
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice*
  • Home Childbirth*
  • Humans
  • Infant Care*
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Maternal Behavior*
  • Rural Health
  • Surveys and Questionnaires