Karnataka triplets survive tough odds, inspire WHO campaign

The World Health Organisation has chosen a heartwarming story from Karnataka to promote a method to save low birth-weight children.

A woman with two daughters gave birth to feeble triplets, all girls. Her despair turned to hope and joy after she succeeded in making them stronger using the kangaroo mother care method.

Kangaroo mother care or KMC refers mainly to constant skin-to-skin contact between mothers and underweight and premature babies.

While the care is in progress, the mother looks like a kangaroo nursing a clinging baby.

The Karnataka success story has inspired the WHO to scale up the method in three districts in India, where the project is in progress.


Difficult to nurse

On October 25, 2016, Renuka Hadapad gave birth to triplets in the northern Karnataka city of Koppal. She already had two daughters, and the triplets brought the family little cheer.

The babies weighed less than 1,500 grams each, which made it difficult for Renuka to nurse them. But the hospital staff, part of a WHO research programme, encouraged her to hold the children close to her chest and breast-feed them.

The girls, named Mahadevi, Shrushti and Lakshmi, improved and gained in strength, and were discharged from hospital after 28 days.

Kangaroo Mother Care is only effective when it is continued at least till a baby weighs 2,500 grams, or till the point it no longer wants to stay confined to skin-to-skin contact.

Sister steps in
Keeping the children in bodily contact for long hours is not easy.

With her husband Somappa away at work, Renuka turned to her sister for help, and moved into her house.

Between them, the women gave each of the babies at least nine hours of skin-to-skin care each day for about four months.

By March 7, the triplets had gained 2,500 grams each.

Dr Dhan Reddy, Koppal district surgeon, said the method had successfully helped save very low birth-weight triplets.

WHO is keen to promote kangaroo mother care all over India.

It aims to ensure the care is provided to at least 80% of low-birth weight babies born at district hospitals.

In the first year of the programme, coverage has increased from 0% to about 40%.

The Koppal district hospital, with the St John's National Academy of Health Sciences and Karnataka Health Promotion Trust, celebrated the first birthday of the triplets on October 30, 2017.

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Champ mom
World Health Organisation has named Renuka the district kangaroo mother care champion.

Given her success, it plans to scale up its kangaroo mother care project to three districts in India.

Renuka, mother of five girls, now thinks daughters are a gift, and should face no discrimination.

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What's KMC?
Kangaroo mother care refers to skin-to-skin contact to keep low birth-weight and premature babies warm.

A baby and its kangaroo care-giver must remain in bodily contact for months, or till it gains 2.5 kg and feels it no longer needs to be in contact.

The name comes from the way the mother and child look: they resemble a kangaroo and its clinging little one.

The method helps the baby overcome hypothermia (body losing heat), and improve breathing rate.

Mothers are the most common kangaroo care-givers, but fathers are also sometimes roped in.

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