15 November 2021 Media Release: Love and warmth – Kangaroo Mother Care

Media Release: Love and warmth – Kangaroo Mother Care

For Immediate Release
15 November 2021

Kangaroo mother care week is celebrated from 15 to 19 November by parents, communities, health professionals, institutions, and organisations internationally to honour mothers and newborn babies, and to appreciate and acknowledge the benefits of kangaroo mother care.

Kangaroo mother care (skin-to-skin contact between a mother and her newborn baby) is an intervention that has been effectively proven to decrease the mortality rate among low weight and preterm newborn babies.

The Western Cape Department of Health has adopted and implemented the kangaroo mother care policy in all healthcare facilities across the Western Cape to decrease the mortality amongst all low-weight births and preterm babies. The Department is constantly, consistently and continuously striving to create awareness and improve all levels, aspects and standards of kangaroo mother care facilities.

Kangaroo mother care consists of four components. Firstly, more skin-to-skin contact between the mother’s chest and baby’s front, from the start of birth, continuously day and night is helpful.

Secondly, direct suckling by the baby from the mother’s breast is all that is needed to ensure that the newborn baby remains healthy.

Thirdly, if ever the mother and her newborn baby require physical, medical, emotional and psychological support to improve their well-being, services and immediate assistance will be provided to them.

Lastly, a mother and her newborn baby can be discharged early in the ‘kangaroo position’ at any gestational age or weight in the event that they are healthy, have the necessary support and the baby is gaining weight from his or her mother’s breast milk.

‘At first I was afraid, but I had to be strong for my baby.’ Those were the words of young mother Bongiwe Witbooi (21) from George whose newborn baby turns three weeks old on Sunday, 21 November. Bongiwe gave birth to her baby girl Akhelethu Witbooi at 7 months on 31 August 2021 at the George Regional Hospital.  Akhelethu weighed 800 g.

‘The medical staff was so helpful and friendly,’ said Bongiwe with the greatest smile on her face. She later explained that the staff in the neonatal unit gave her the hope and courage to not be scared and bond with her newborn baby girl no matter her size.

Dr Ilse Els-Goussard (specialist in Paediatrics and neonatal care) stated that in previous years, newborn babies were only discharged if they weighed more than 2 kg. Today, because of kangaroo mother care, newborn babies are allowed to be discharged at a weight of 1,7 kg. ‘There are many benefits to kangaroo mother care. Short-term benefits ensure that newborn babies get less severe infections because the babies are colonised with the mom’s flora which protects babies against the resistant organisms in the hospital’, said Dr Els-Goussard.

She also states that the long-term benefits is ‘the amazing bond with the mom and the baby that carries through to adulthood’.

According to Dr Els-Goussard, there are babies in full-time kangaroo mother care currently and babies who receive kangaroo mother care during daytime only.

Currently, at George Hospital there are seven full-time kangaroo mother care beds and other intermittent beds to accommodate 10 to 15 babies receiving kangaroo mother care.

‘The most rewarding part of this programme is when the mom takes charge of the small baby and they become equipped with the knowledge, and that’s the reason the unit can send home babies earlier.

Kangaroo care is medicine for the soul’, she said.

Caption: Kangaroo mother care for  Bongiwe Witbooi (21) and baby Akhelethu.


Nadia Ferreira
Principal Communications Officer
Garden Route and Central Karoo Districts
Western Cape Government Health
Email: Nadia.Ferreira@westerncape.gov.za
Website: www.westerncape.gov.za