Iwoke up to the sound of a phone ringing, which broke the night's silence. I answered it while still sleepy. The call was from our neighbor, Peter. He said, "Let's go, neighbor! Time is up; be quick!"
I was surprised and asked myself for a couple of seconds, "What time has come?"
A moment later, I remembered that Peter's wife was expecting a baby. I had told them, "Whenever required, I will be ready with my car." However, a few days earlier, my wife had told me that they still had a month until the baby was due.
I got up, dressed quickly, and went downstairs to meet them. We were at the hospital within 5-10 minutes. While his wife was being taken to the delivery room, Peter was both excited and nervous. We both waited outside the delivery room, praying.
After some time the doctor came out of the delivery room and told us that the baby was prematurely born and had to remain in special care for a while. Reassuring us that "premature" did not mean something serious, the doctor said, "No need to worry!" and continued: "We consider babies who are born before the 36th week to be premature. Nearly 8% of births are premature. There are many reasons behind this. Does your wife smoke cigarettes?"
Peter replied, "No."
The doctor continued: "Even though premature birth usually is seen with mothers who abuse harmful substances like cigarettes, and those who work difficult jobs and suffer from malnutrition, there are also other physiological causes. Babies who are born prematurely are put into incubators to protect them and help regulate their temperatures. Monitoring the body temperature of a baby inside an incubator is very important; if their body temperature drops below a certain degree, it could be life threatening."
Peter became sad and confused. He must have imagined babies in incubators as lonely and deprived of their mothers' attention. He hesitantly asked, "Isn't there any other way?"
The doctor said, "In fact there is; recently, a more effective new method that can replace incubators has been found. We can implement it depending on the condition of the baby."
We started to pay more attention to the doctor.
"The method is called Kangaroo Mother Care. The premature baby is initially taken into an incubator for a review of his or her overall health. Then, the baby is handed over to the mother to balance his or her body temperature. The mother places the baby so its chest aligns with the center of hers, and wraps the baby with her body. In this position, the skin of the mother and baby are in direct contact. Thus not only are the body temperatures of the babies kept under control, but they can also access their mothers' milk just as in the case of kangaroos."
When I asked about more possible advantages of this method, the doctor continued:
"Studies have shown that the Kangaroo Mother Care method is very successful and even safer than the incubator. This method contributes positively to the development of the baby since it enforces the emotional relationship between mother and baby. There are other benefits of Kangaroo Mother Care, too: the baby relaxes with the warmth of the mother, balancing his or her heart and respiratory rhythms. Therefore, it reduces the need for incubators and the time spent in hospitals."
Then the doctor told us that we could go home; they were going to keep the baby under control and decide within a couple days whether they would resort to this method or not.
Once we got home, I searched for information about Kangaroo Mother Care. An article I read mentioned how well it regulated heat.
The body temperatures of people living in both Ecuador and the Polar Regions are kept constantly at 36-37 degrees Celsius. The thermos-regulation center located in the hypothalamus is assigned the task of balancing body temperature. This center, which occupies a very small space, works like a thermostat. It mobilizes the system to lower the body temperature when we are overheated, and increases it when we feel colder. The center, which is composed of two sections, is located in the frontal and mid part of the hypothalamus; the frontal one is in charge of initiating mechanisms lowering our body heat and the one in the mid-section is assigned to increase it. What stimulates the center are the heat sensors embedded in our skin.
There are two different thermos-receptors for cold (Krause end bulbs) and heat (Ruffini endings). Even a small amount of temperature difference is transmitted to the center instantly and the system becomes active. Sweating is executed to reduce body heat. For this, body heat is transported to the skin. The enlargement of blood vessels plays a critical role here. This way, the transfer of heat to the skin is enhanced. On the other hand, to warm us up, blood vessels constrict and shivering begins.
Our world has been created in a remarkable way. Not only can human bodies regulate their temperatures, but so can other animals – and even planets. Kangaroo Mother Care is a manifestation of this balance, as a mother is able to give her child warmth while her own temperature is regulated by her body.
Peter's story has a happy ending. The baby recovered in a few weeks and was brought home.
- P. Kavitha, R. Aroun Prasath, P. Krishnaraj. 2012. "A Study To Assess The Knowledge On Kangaroo Mother Care Among Post Natal Mothers," Journal of Science, Vol 2, Issue 1.