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NPR story on kangaroo care for newborns left us feeling fussy

Rating

3 Star

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Kangaroo Care Helps Preemies And Full Term Babies, Too

Our Review Summary

This story discusses kangaroo care for newborns–full term or premature–and suggests that babies benefit in a multitude of ways if they receive skin-to-skin contact with mom.

Unfortunately, the story is for the most part anecdotal, with a recent 20-year follow-up study referenced only briefly. There were lots of notable findings from this study, easily available in the news release. As well, an editorial related to the study covered key limitations to those findings.

 

Why This Matters

Even interventions as gentle as this–where the mother and baby essentially snuggle–deserve a discussion of the scope and size of the benefits. What did the the researchers measure and what did they find, exactly? What are some limitations to the findings?

Criteria

Does the story adequately discuss the costs of the intervention?

Not Applicable

There is no cost associated with this practice, especially for healthy full-term babies where less parental training is needed. However, it would have been useful to discuss the high costs of NICU care, and how kangaroo care might affect those costs.

Does the story adequately quantify the benefits of the treatment/test/product/procedure?

Not Satisfactory

While the story consistently suggests that this practice is beneficial, there is no quantification of benefits.

But data isn’t hard to find. For example, the news release from the 20-year follow-up study contains a wealth of statistics, including details like:

“Looking at mortality, the research found that Kangaroo Mother Care offered significant protection against early death. The mortality rate in the control group (7.7 percent) was more than double that of the KMC group (3.5 percent).”

The study also included this information using absolute terms: 8 deaths (3.5%) of 229 children in the kangaroo group and 16 (7.7%) of 204 in the control group.

Does the story adequately explain/quantify the harms of the intervention?

Satisfactory

There aren’t any obvious harms from this intervention.

Does the story seem to grasp the quality of the evidence?

Not Satisfactory

While the 20-year study of kangarooed babies contains a wealth of information, this story itself contains little actual evidence. One source refers to the process as “a ‘serendipitous magical finding.'” Various physicians comment on the practice, but none quote the data in the paper, nor any other evidence.

Does the story commit disease-mongering?

Not Applicable

The story covers kangaroo care for a broad group of infants, both premature and full-term, that don’t have diseases per se.

Still, some stats on pre-term births would have been useful, as well as birth complications that make kangaroo care difficult or impossible for both mother and baby.

Does the story use independent sources and identify conflicts of interest?

Satisfactory

The story appears to have at least one independent medical source, and there are no apparent conflicts of interest.

That said, the story would have benefited from an expert discussing research on kangaroo care. As we noted in our review of NBC News’s story on the follow-up study, there are some nuances worth pointing out to parents.

Does the story compare the new approach with existing alternatives?

Satisfactory

There is a very brief, indirect discussion of what happens if kangaroo care is not in place, which is that the newborn baby is placed in a bassinet or incubator, “sort of alone.” That’s just barely enough to rate satisfactory.

Does the story establish the availability of the treatment/test/product/procedure?

Not Satisfactory

We would have liked to see more information, such as how widely this approach is used to treat premature infants, and what some of the barriers might be in high-income countries where incubator care has been the norm. For example, how many U.S. neonatal intensive care units incorporate skin-to-skin contact in their care? Which babies don’t or can’t get this kind of care? Given how many births are delivered via c-section these days, is kangaroo care an option for these moms?

Does the story establish the true novelty of the approach?

Satisfactory

It is clear from the story that this practice is not novel around the world, but is somewhat novel in the U.S. That appears to be accurate.

Does the story appear to rely solely or largely on a news release?

Satisfactory

The story doesn’t not appear to rely on a news release.

Total Score: 5 of 8 Satisfactory

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