A technique for protecting premature infants, developed in Colombia because of a shortage of incubators, is proving so effective that Colombian doctors are urging more affluent nations to adopt it as well. Called "kangaroo mother care," the therapy begins when the child no longer needs special medical support, and ends when he is able to regulate his own temperature, typically at the time he would normally have been born.

Wearing nothing but a cap, a diaper, and a supportive sling, the baby is snuggled against his mother's (or father's) naked chest, 24 hours a day. The constant skin-to-skin contact keeps the baby warm, promotes breastfeeding, and improves communication between mother and child. Research indicates that the technique is as safe and effective as incubator care. In addition, it reduces the severity of infections and strengthens the parent–child bond.

"It's at least as good as taking care of babies in incubators," says lead author Juan Gabriel Ruiz-Pelaez, a pediatrician at Javeriana University in Bogota. "And we are convinced it has distinct advantages—especially regarding the emotional aspects of the relationship between mother and infant."

Ruiz-Pelaez says medical personnel may be resistant to the technique because "instead of having a baby carefully scrutinised with alarms and monitors, you go back to something that looks very simple and unreliable—a human body."

"Western" medicine and medical practicioners have contributed incalculably to the health of developing nations, often at great sacrifice. Without demeaning those efforts and successes in any way, it's nonetheless essential that we have the humility to recognize that our solutions aren't always the best, and develop the grace to accept non-technological, non-pharmaceutical therapies from third-world countries, midwives, grandparents, "old wives," and other sources of creative wisdom.

Especially a solution as elegant and as beautiful as this.
Posted by sursumcorda on Saturday, November 13, 2004 at 12:43 pm | Edit
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