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.
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.