When Lavender Atienos' tiny miracle twins were born at 24 weeks in May 2020, they weighed below 1.6 kilograms. To save their lives, baby Eden Havard and Jesus Navas were rushed to a hospital 10 kilometers away.
However, because the birth had taken place at home, they could not be put onto a ventilator and were sent back home. Lavender was devastated – she had just given birth under very stressful circumstances, and she did not expect to be sent home with her preterm babies. She felt helpless. One of her twins' heart kept stopping, and he wasn't expected to live.
Fortunately, a Kangaroo Mother Care (KMC) champion trained by Afya Jijini introduced Lavender to the benefits of KMC. Three months later, Lavender's story has a happy ending. "I put the babies close to me on my chest all the time," she said. "My goal was to ensure that the babies added weight. They are now more than 2.8kgs each, and I am delighted. They are my miracle babies."
Prematurity is a leading cause of neonatal mortality in Kenya. Approximately 200,000 babies in Kenya are born too soon, and more than 15,000 die each year. The health workforce shortage in Nairobi, coupled with limited skills and lack of infrastructure, including appropriate equipment, commodities, and space, poses a problem for managing preterm births. At many clinics, even when the equipment is available, it is often inadequate and poorly maintained. KMC involves continuous skin-to-skin contact between mother and baby and has been shown to decrease mortality and morbidity in preterm and low birth weight infants by providing protection from infection, regulating temperature, breathing, and brain activity, encouraging the mother, and promoting bonding, which increases the likelihood of survival.