Skin-to-skin contact preferable to incubator for premature babies, says WHO

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Skin-to-skin contact preferable to incubator for premature infants, according to WHO

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About 15 million babies are born prematurely each year, or one in 10 births.

Immediate skin-to-skin contact is preferable to being in an incubator for babies born premature or too small, WHO now recommends.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has called for a step change in the way neonatal intensive care is delivered to toddlers. The agency has determined that allowing mothers or other caregivers and premature babies to stay close from birth, without separation, provides major health benefits, said Karen Edmond, physician and pediatrician at the agency. WHO, during a press briefing in Geneva.

“I like to think of it this way: the first hug with a parent is not only emotionally important, but also absolutely essential to improving the chances of survival and the health of babies who are too small and premature.

— Karen Edmond, WHO Pediatrician

This new recommendation on how to treat babies born before 37 weeks gestation or weighing less than 2 weeks, 5 kilograms applies in all settings, WHO stresses.

Immediate skin-to-skin contact must be ensured even for babies with breathing difficulties, says the UN agency, which insists: They too need close contact with their mothers from birth.


For the WHO, premature births are an urgent public health problem that affects 15 million babies every year, or one in 10 births.

In its updated recommendations, WHO makes 25 recommendations on the care of premature babies, 11 of which are new since the last update in 2015.

These guidelines cover all areas and highlight the importance of breastfeeding preterm babies.

And for the first time ever, the guidelines also include recommendations on participation of the family, including a call for intensive care units to reorganize themselves so that mother and baby can stay together.

It is important, said Edmond, to keep the baby in skin-to-skin contact 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, even if he needs to be in intensive care.

The guidelines propose also for the first time that increased psychological and financial support is given to relatives of premature babies.

Parental leave is essential to help families deal with infant, said Karen Edmond, adding that parents of premature babies should be provided with financial and professional support. sufficient nel, as well as home visits after discharge from hospital.

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