e-Library of Evidence for Nutrition Actions (eLENA)

Kangaroo mother care to reduce morbidity and mortality in low-birth-weight infants

Every year, more than 20 million infants are born weighing less than 2.5kg – over 96% of them in developing countries. These low-birth-weight (LBW) infants are at increased risk of early growth retardation, infectious disease, developmental delay and death during infancy and childhood.

Conventional neonatal care of LBW infants is expensive and needs both highly skilled personnel and permanent logistic support. Evidence suggests that kangaroo mother care is a safe and effective alternative to conventional neonatal care, especially in under-resourced settings and may reduce morbidity and mortality in LBW infants as well as increase breastfeeding. Kangaroo mother care involves:

  • early, continuous and prolonged skin-to-skin contact between a mother and her newborn
  • frequent and exclusive breastfeeding
  • early discharge from hospital.

WHO recommendations

Kangaroo mother care is recommended for the routine care of newborns weighing 2000 g or less at birth, and should be initiated in health-care facilities as soon as the newborns are clinically stable.

Newborns weighing 2000 g or less at birth should be provided as close to continuous Kangaroo mother care as possible.

Intermittent Kangaroo mother care, rather than conventional care, is recommended for newborns weighing 2000 g or less at birth, if continuous Kangaroo mother care is not possible.


Additional information can be found in the guidelines under 'WHO documents' below.

WHO documents

WHO documents

GRC-approved guidelines
Other guidance documents


Systematic reviews used to develop the guidelines
Related Cochrane reviews
Other related systematic reviews
Clinical trials

Last update:

9 December 2016 11:16 CET

Category 1 intervention

Guidelines have been recently approved by the WHO Guidelines Review Committee


There is not yet any implementation information related to this intervention in GINA

Global targets

Implementation of this intervention may contribute to the achievement of the following targets:

Global nutrition targets

Target 4: No increase in childhood overweight

Target 5: Increase the rate of exclusive breastfeeding in first 6 months up to at least 50%

Global NCD targets

Target 7: Halt the rise in diabetes and obesity