Background: Kangaroo mother care (KMC), originally 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 neonatal care.
Search strategy: The standard search strategy of the Cochrane Neonatal Group was used. This included searches of MEDLINE, EMBASE, LILACS, POPLINE, CINAHL databases (from inception to January 31, 2011), and the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (The Cochrane Library, Issue 1, 2011). In addition, we searched the web page of the Kangaroo Foundation, conference and symposia proceedings on KMC, and Google scholar.
Selection criteria: Randomized controlled trials comparing KMC versus conventional neonatal care, or early onset KMC (starting within 24 hours after birth) versus late onset KMC (starting after 24 hours after birth) in LBW infants.
Data collection and analysis: Data collection and analysis were performed according to the methods of the Cochrane Neonatal Review Group.
Main results: Sixteen studies, including 2518 infants, fulfilled inclusion criteria. Fourteen studies evaluated KMC in LBW infants after stabilization, one evaluated KMC in LBW infants before stabilization, and one compared early onset KMC with late onset KMC in relatively stable LBW infants. Eleven studies evaluated intermittent KMC and five evaluated continuous KMC. At discharge or 40 - 41 weeks' postmenstrual age, KMC was associated with a reduction in the risk of mortality (typical risk ratio (RR) 0.60, 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.39 to 0.93; seven trials, 1614 infants), nosocomial infection/sepsis (typical RR 0.42, 95% CI 0.24 to 0.73), hypothermia (typical RR 0.23, 95% CI 0.10 to 0.55), and length of hospital stay (typical mean difference 2.4 days, 95% CI 0.7 to 4.1). At latest follow up, KMC was associated with a decreased risk of mortality (typical RR 0.68, 95% CI 0.48 to 0.96; nine trials, 1952 infants) and severe infection/sepsis (typical RR 0.57, 95% CI 0.40 to 0.80). Moreover, KMC was found to increase some measures of infant growth, breastfeeding, and mother-infant attachment.
Authors' conclusions: The evidence from this updated review supports the use of KMC in LBW infants as an alternative to conventional neonatal care mainly in resource-limited settings. Further information is required concerning effectiveness and safety of early onset continuous KMC in unstabilized LBW infants, long term neurodevelopmental outcomes, and costs of care.