‘Premature babies need extra care’

Lilongwe, Mothers with premature babies currently admitted at Kangaroo Ward at Kamuzu Central Hospital’s Ethel Mutharika Maternity hospital have been advised to take extra care of their babies because they are fragile and require efforts to adapt to the outside environment.

The advice was given by two women who went to cheer the mothers on Saturday where they donated assorted items to the mothers as one way of easing their stay at the hospital.

In the kangaroo mother care system, the baby is carried by the mother with skin-to-skin contact and observing frequent breastfeeding.

The two ladies, Mercy Nkhulawe and Fostina Kamanga, both had babies born premature and were once admitted at the Kangaroo ward. They cited this as the sole reason that prompted them to visit the mothers in the ward.

In 2016, we were admitted at the ward as we had given birth to premature babies, we have fond memories of the ward. We had to do Kangaroo Mother Care for our babies to help them gain weight and regulate their body temperature because premature babies lose bodily heat very easily, said Kamanga.

Kamanga said having had experienced the same, the women have an idea of what it takes to take care of a premature baby and the kind of support a woman doing so needs.

Being in the Kangaroo ward can be disheartening and traumatizing to the mothers because of the long stay at the hospital.

Some mothers stay up to three months in the hospital and this pulls a strain on their finances because relatives from home have to visit them, she said.

Unfortunately, some are even abandoned because of the long hospital stays as regular visits from friends and relatives tend to drop she added.

Kamanga explained that mothers with premature babies are ridiculed and face rejection by the society because they live in isolation to ensure that the babies are strong enough before they can be taken outdoors.

As a result the society does not understand what it takes to care for a premature baby.

Some of the items that were donated included, baby blankets, packets of sugar, soap, baby hats and baby clothes.

One of the mothers, Mirriam Banda who said has been admitted at the Kangaroo Ward with her premature baby since October, appreciated the kind gesture shown by the ladies.

She said the visit had given her hope especially that the two women had also been in the Kangaroo Ward.

Seeing these two ladies has given me hope especially that their babies have grown strong and healthy. I can now see that my baby who is very small now will grow too and leave a healthy life.

We are also thankful for their gifts as this will go a long way in making my stay at this hospital a bit comfortable, she said.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO) prematurity is defined as babies born alive before 37 weeks of pregnancy are completed. Many survivors face a lifetime of disability, including learning disabilities and visual and hearing problems.

WHO adds that more than three quarters of premature babies can be saved with feasible, cost-effective care such as essential care during child birth and in the postnatal period for every mother and also using the Kangaroo mother care amongst others.

According to WHO statistics, Malawi currently ranks top in the 10 countries with the highest rates of preterm birth with 18.1 per cent preterm births per 100.

Source: Malawi News Agency MANA