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, 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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12 thoughts on “Mom follows her instincts, revives ‘dead’ preemie with Kangaroo Care”

  1. Not just for preemies!!! My daughter was a good healthy 8 plus pounds and several weeks overdue. But she died three times in her first 9 days of life. Each time we resuscitated her. I had a jerk for a doctor who, because he hadn’t SEEN her stop breathing, turn blue and her heart stop, didn’t believe me. Fortunately AN INTERN was there in the emergency room after he left, saw it happen and admitted her. I could go on for hours about what DIDN’T happen for the next week, but that’s not the story here.

    When I finally got her evaluated, she was diagnosed as have SIDS episodes. (Later they suspected that her brain shut off when she over heated, but there was never a final diagnosis.) BUT, we had to go on a waiting list for a monitor . . .for several months. In the short term, she was never out of my arms unless someone else was holding her. And at night I slept with her on my chest. Which, I learned many years later probably saved her.

    So I’m a HUGE supporter of co-sleeping and lots and lots of contact with newborns.

  2. My daughter was born at 34 weeks in 2005. My son was born at 39.5 weeks in 2008. I am very sad to say that I received far more encouragement to practice kangaroo care with my full-term son. When my daughter was born prematurely she was removed from me and taken to the NICU within a few minutes of birth. And in the NICU there was little privacy and none of the staff suggested keeping her skin-to-skin.

    I hope that my experience is a reflection of the fact that she was born 5.5 years ago, and that things have changed. But it pains me all the same that many premature infants don’t get the chance to experience kangaroo care. In this story, for example, had Jamie not been declared dead, he would likely have been whisked away without any chance to be with his mother.

  3. That is simply amazing! My daughter wasn’t premature, but I held her skin to skin on my chest every day. I’d strip her down to her diaper and put her inside my shirt and rock her to sleep. I loved those early newborn days!

  4. My eldest daughter was born at 26 weeks weighing 14oz, as you can imagine she wasn’t well at birth and not for many weeks afterwards, so she was 6 weeks old before I held her. As wonderful as Kangaroo Care is (and it is) many very early or sick bubs find the other handling–being removed and replace in their incubators–too stressful. Once they’re well enough though, it’s fantastic!

    I was fortunate enough to have had both of my girls in a hospital that really stressed the importance of k-care so I had it with my youngest within minutes of her birth as well.

  5. Amazing story – thanks for sharing, I think it is important to follow your instincts and stay strong an demand that doctors listen to us and give proper care.

  6. Stories like this both fascinate and amaze me. I love to hear when mamas follow their natural instincts and what wonderful things can result. We’ve got thousands of years of evolutionary biology wired into our brains – using it is in everyone’s best interest.

    Thanks for your post on this topic. Love your blog (and your philosophy). Added you to my blogroll 🙂

  7. I love this story! I hope that stories like this will cause medical professionals to think less about statistics and put more hope in the human condition and it’s abilities.

    I’m doing a $75 gift certificate giveaway on my blog for the fair-trade company, NOVICA. I thought you might be interested if not in the giveaway, then spreading the word about such an awesome company.

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