In 1979, in the highly populated city of Bogota, Columbia, doctors were faced with an unnerving predicament. They were experiencing a shortage of incubators at the city's hospital, and a serious infection was spreading among the patients. The doctors had to find a solution to keep the preterm babies warm, and protect them from contracting an infection. Thinking of how kangaroos keep their newborns in their pouches, the doctors devised a plan to use the mothers' bodies as incubators. As they had hoped, the newborns were kept safe and warm while wrapped against the skin of the mother. Kangaroo mother care was developed as a solution to a challenging situation, and has been studied and found to be an effective method in caring for preterm infants at home.
In the early 1980's, UNICEF noticed what the doctors in Bogota were doing, and took note of the benefits of KMC. By wrapping the newborn baby against the mother's chest in a sling, the baby is kept warm and has adequate access to the breast for feeding. One of UNICEF's missions in the early 1980's was to promote exclusive breastfeeding for infant health, and to discourage the marketing of breast milk substitutes. The kangaroo mother care protocol promotes a very healthy and protected environment for preterm babies, and encourages exclusive breastfeeding. In an effort to educate the communities throughout South America, UNICEF published a booklet, in Spanish, on kangaroo mother care. It became more apparent, through wide spread use in the region, that this form of parenting was highly effective in creating a viable living environment for the newborn baby.
The endorsement by UNICEF set the stage for the growth and development of the concept of KMC. The research and practice of this method of newborn baby care spread throughout Europe and North America, and was implemented throughout communities in Africa and the Middle East. Medical researchers began to look deeper into the reasons why this care worked, and how this form of early parenting may be the root of successful mother care through the centuries in more primitive societies. In 1991, the first research review on KMC was published by Dr. Gene Cranston Anderson, a doctor in research nursing. The publication confirmed the usefulness of kangaroo mother care in the development of preterm infants and in increasing the bond between mother and child.
Since 1990, kangaroo mother care has become a wide spread practice among all classes and societies throughout the world. In tribal villages, kangaroo mother care ensures the viability of preterm infants where advanced technologies are not readily available. In more advanced societies, kangaroo mother care is accepted as a best practice in caring for newborns and developing the child maternal bond. Additionally, the method allows preterm babies to leave the hospital, under the guidance of a physician, with the mother long before it was possible in the past. This natural approach to incubating newborns is an effective and cost efficient way to provide a nurturing environment for growth and development. Even today, there is still ongoing research into the effectiveness and possible applications for kangaroo mother care.