Mom follows her instincts, revives ‘dead’ preemie with Kangaroo Care

After Australian mom Kate Ogg gave birth to premature twins at 27 weeks gestation, her doctor gave her the news no mother wants to hear. One of the twins – a boy – didn’t make it, but that’s just the beginning of this heartwarming story. The doctor – who struggled for 20 minutes to save the infant before declaring him dead – gave the 2-pound lifeless baby to Kate and her husband David to say their goodbyes. Kate instinctively placed her naked newborn son, named Jamie, on her bare chest.

As the grieving parents embraced and talked to Jamie for two hours, he began gasping for air. At first the doctors dismissed it as a reflex. However, the gasps continued more frequently and he began showing other signs of life. Kate gave Jamie some breastmilk on her finger. Amazingly, he took it and began to breathe normally. Kate recalled, “A short time later he opened his eyes. It was a miracle. Then he held out his hand and grabbed my finger. He opened his eyes and moved his head from side to side. The doctor kept shaking his head saying, ‘I don’t believe it, I don’t believe it.'”

The technique which Kate Ogg used to revive her baby – placing the infant skin-to-skin with the mother or father – is known as Kangaroo Care or Kangaroo Mother Care, a practice endorsed by the World Health Organization for use with premature infants. Pre-term and low birth-weight babies treated with the skin-to-skin method have been shown to have lower infection rates, less severe illness, improved sleep patterns and are at reduced risk of hypothermia.

The March of Dimes has a section on their web site called Parenting in the NICU: Holding Your Baby Close: Kangaroo Care, which describes the benefits of the practice.

Kangaroo care is the practice of holding your diapered baby on your bare chest (if you’re the father) or between your breasts (if you’re the mother), with a blanket draped over your baby’s back. This skin-to-skin contact benefits both you and your baby.

Kangaroo care can help your baby:

  • Maintain his body warmth
  • Regulate his heart and breathing rates
  • Gain weight
  • Spend more time in deep sleep
  • Spend more time being quiet and alert and less time crying
  • Have a better chance of successful breastfeeding (kangaroo care can improve the mother’s breastmilk production)

Dr. Jack Newman believes Kangaroo care benefits all babies and believes the “vast majority of babies” should have skin-to-skin contact with the mother “immediately after birth for at least an hour. Hospital routines, such as weighing the baby, should not take precedence.” In his article The Importance of Skin-to-Skin Contact, Dr. Newman states:

There are now a multitude of studies that show that mothers and babies should be together, skin to skin (baby naked, not wrapped in a blanket) immediately after birth, as well as later. The baby is happier, the baby’s temperature is more stable and more normal, the baby’s heart and breathing rates are more stable and more normal, and the baby’s blood sugar is more elevated. Not only that, skin to skin contact immediately after birth allows the baby to be colonized by the same bacteria as the mother. This, plus breastfeeding, are thought to be important in the prevention of allergic diseases. When a baby is put into an incubator, his skin and gut are often colonized by bacteria different from his mother’s.

On About.com, Pamela Prindle Fierro shared that her doctor prescribed Kangaroo care for one of her twins born at 36 weeks when the infant was having trouble regulating her body temperature. She mentions that, “Doctors seem a little bit leery of confirming that kangaroo care is a miraculous cure, but the [Jamie Ogg] story is bringing attention to the practice of kangaroo care. It’s one of those rare medical treatments that has no drawbacks or side-effects and is actually pleasurable.”

On the Informed Parenting blog, Danielle Arnold-McKenny said, “The mind boggles when you read stories like this. A mother instinctively caring for her baby by keeping him skin to skin, even when all hope is lost… and a baby responding to his mothers warmth and touch and voice.”

Danielle mentions that she’s read several stories over the years like this one and linked to a similar story from December 2007, Parents ‘Last Good Bye’ Saved Their Baby’s LifeCarolyn Isbister was given her tiny 20 oz. dying baby to say good-bye. Carolyn instinctively put her baby girl to her chest to warm her up and again, using the Kangaroo Care method, ended up saving her life. “I’m just so glad I trusted my instinct and picked her up when I did. Otherwise she wouldn’t be here today.”

David Ogg said something very similar of his wife Kate’s response to baby Jamie. “Luckily I’ve got a very strong, very smart wife. She instinctively did what she did. If she hadn’t done that, Jamie probably wouldn’t be here.”

Little Jamie and his twin sister Emily are 5 months old now and doing well.

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Photo by [lauren nelson] via Flickr.

Cross-posted on BlogHer.

Edited to add: After posting this, I learned that the Oggs, with babies Jamie and Emily in tow, were on the TODAY show this morning telling their story. I chose not to post about it here, but Kate and David spoke on the TODAY show about the trouble they had getting the doctor to come back and check on Jamie after they were fairly sure he was not dead or dying. They eventually had to lie to get the doctor to return. You can read or hear more about that on the TODAY article and video.

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Trusting my parenting instincts

Welcome to the October Carnival of Breastfeeding hosted by The Motherwear Breastfeeding Blog. This month’s theme is a little different than past carnivals, in that this month we all wrote “This I believe” essays on topics related to breastfeeding and parenting. Please visit the participating bloggers listed at the bottom of this post.

Trusting my parenting instincts

I believe in attachment parenting or – a name that I like even better – parenting by instinct.

I believe in breastfeeding my children for the countless health benefits as well as the emotional benefits to both me and them. I also believe that children know when they are ready to wean from the breast and I’m doing my best to allow that to happen for us. There are times I’ve given a gentle push in the weaning direction (with Ava, not at all with Julian yet), but I’m hoping I can allow my children to give it up completely when they feel they are ready.

I believe that co-sleeping with my kids and nighttime parenting helps strengthen the bond between my husband Jody, myself and our kids.

I believe in wearing my babies or holding them in arms. I believe that the closeness and security stimulates them far more than being left lying alone does.

I believe in responding to my baby’s cries. I believe that babies cry because they have a need that is not being met – either they are hungry, uncomfortable (wet, too cold, too warm), or they simply need comforting and reassurance. I believe that meeting their needs helps them to develop into emotionally secure children. I’ve seen it work with Ava. When babies aren’t spending their energy on crying and seeking attention, they can use that energy to grow and thrive.

I also believe in gentle discipline. It is challenging and hard at times, and I can’t say I haven’t lost my temper before, but I strive to discipline gently. I try to think about how I would want to be treated and honor my children with that same respect.

Just as I trusted in my body and my baby when I gave birth to Julian at home, I trust that I will instinctively know how to parent my children. That’s not to say that it’s always easy, but all of the above things have felt instinctual to me. If it feels right and makes sense, then I go with it. That, I believe, is parenting by instinct.

I believe that the time investment I make in my children’s lives while they are young will pay off tremendously as they grow older, and that by doing all of these things, I am creating a solid foundation on which to build a lifelong relationship.

I know some people question how attachment parenting can create independent children, but I have two children who are being parented in this way and they both are very independent. In fact, Ava is sometimes even more independent than I would like. ;) I believe that by meeting their needs, they come to learn that they can trust Jody (their dad) and me to be there for them when they need us and so they feel safe to venture out on their own.

Parenting is a challenging and amazing experience that takes time, energy and patience, but I believe this investment is all worth it. They make it all worthwhile.

Ava hugging Julian - Oct. 2007

Please take a moment to read some of the other carnival participants’ blogs (more will be added throughout the day):

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