Premature babies: skin to skin is preferable to the incubator, insists the WHO

The World Health Organization is changing course. Each year, nearly 15 million children are born prematurely across the world (i.e. one in ten births). According to the latest WHO recommendations, dating from 2015, they are generally placed in an incubator for 3 to 7 days before being entrusted to their parents. But the Organization now indicates thatimmediate skin-to-skin contact is preferable to an incubator.

It has just published new recommendations aimed at strengthening the care given to babies born before 37 weeks of pregnancy, or with low birth weight (source 1). These recommendations state that “improving the outlook for these tiny infants is not always about providing the most sophisticated solutionsbut rather to guarantee access to essential health care centered on the needs of families”.

The benefits of skin-to-skin

The biggest novelty compared to the 2015 recommendations is the desire not to separate premature newborns from their parents at birth. The parent-child bond presents “major health benefits“, as indicated by Karen Edmond, doctor and pediatrician for the WHO, during a press briefing.

The first hug with a parent is not only emotionally important, but also absolutely essential to improving the chances of survival and the health of babies who are too small and premature, she stressed.

The skin-to-skin – or kangaroo method must therefore apply in all contexts, even for babies with breathing difficulties, says the UN agency. “They too need close contact with their mother from birth,” she insists. And the WHO insists: “research now shows that the implementation of the ‘kangaroo’ method, immediately after birth, saves many more lives, reduces infections and hypothermia, and improves breastfeeding.

Provide psychological and financial support to parents

The new WHO guidelines also recommend that a psychological and financial support more importance is given to the parents: “The family can indeed face extreme stress and hardship due to the intensity of the care they have to provide to the newborn and the concern about their health” , underlines the Organization in a press release (source 1).

Karen Edmond, also emphasizes the importance of parental leaveand adds that theConcerned parents should receive professional support and home visits after discharge from hospital.

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