The impact of kangaroo mother care on work of breathing and oxygen saturation in very low birth weight infants with respiratory insufficiency

Gable, M., Shaffer, T. H., Locke, R., Mackley, A., Kovatis, K.Z. | JNPM 2023;

Abstract: BACKGROUND: Kangaroo mother care (KMC) is defined as prolonged skin to skin care between a mother and infant with the infant lying in prone position on mom’s chest. KMC decreases morbidity and mortality and promotes physiologic stability. The aim of this study is to measure work of breathing (WOB) during KMC in very low birth weight (VLBW) infants on non-invasive respiratory support. METHODS: A prospective observational pilot study was conducted comparing WOB indices during standard care (SC) and KMC. Respiratory inductive plethysmography (RIP) measured WOB indices non-invasively: phase angle and labored breathing index. VLBW infants who were stable on non-invasive respiratory support were randomized to receive RIP measurements during KMC or during SC first. Summary statistics and mixed linear models were used to compare WOB and vital signs. RESULTS: A total of 32 infants were consented for the study, data collection and analysis was completed on 28 infants. There were no significant differences in mean phase angle during KMC or SC (73.5±4.6 SE deg vs 66.8±3.9 SE deg, p = 0.25). No differences in WOB and vital signs were detected. Controlling for respiratory support or randomization/first location did not change the results. CONCLUSION: In this pilot cohort, infants demonstrated no differences in work of breathing indices or oxygen saturation during KMC or SC while receiving non-invasive respiratory support. KMC appears to be safe and well tolerated with no worsened WOB. Larger studies should be performed to confirm our findings.

*Corresponding Author: 

Maura Gable, DO, Department of Neonatology, Janet Weis Children’s Hospital at Geisinger Medical Center, 100N Academy Avenue MC 27-10, Danville, PA, 17822, USA. Tel.: +1 570 241 7506; Fax: +1 570 271 5879; E-mail: