Premature birth: WHO: Premature babies need skin contact - even before the incubator

Babies born prematurely or with low weight should have skin-to-skin contact with the mother or another caregiver immediately after birth and before incubator care.

Premature birth: WHO: Premature babies need skin contact - even before the incubator

Babies born prematurely or with low weight should have skin-to-skin contact with the mother or another caregiver immediately after birth and before incubator care. This is the result of new recommendations from the World Health Organization (WHO) in Geneva. It refers to newborns born before 37 weeks gestation or weighing less than 2.5 kilograms.

The new guidelines could revolutionize the care of premature babies, said pediatrician Karen Edmond, who oversees the issue at the WHO in Geneva. In many clinics, the handling has so far been handled differently. It is believed that premature babies, who often have trouble regulating their body temperature, would need to be stabilized in an incubator and with breathing aids prior to contact with their mother. The WHO now thinks that is wrong. "The first hug with a parent is not only emotionally important, but also absolutely critical to improving the chances of survival and the health of young and preterm babies," said Edmond.

All babies, even those who still have difficulty breathing, could benefit from immediate close skin contact. Infant intensive care units should be adapted to allow mothers to stay with their children 24/7 and have as much skin-to-skin contact as possible. This reduces the risk of infections in children and many put on weight faster.

For its new recommendations, the WHO evaluated more than 200 studies that shed light on how to deal with premature babies and babies that are too light immediately after birth. According to the WHO, 15 million babies are born prematurely every year. This corresponds to more than ten percent of all births. More than 20 million babies are underweight every year.

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