World Prematurity Day: New WHO guidelines on skin-to-skin contact from the moment of birth

Toni Harman
5 min readNov 17, 2022

Today is World Prematurity Day, a day to celebrate the health and wellbeing of babies born too early. To mark the day, the World Health Organization has issued new guidelines highlighting the importance of skin-to-skin contact from the moment of birth.

#worldprematurityday Wise words from the WHO Director-General: “Preterm babies can survive, thrive, and change the world — but each baby must be given that chance”. 17th November is World Prematurity Day. — 1 in 10 babies are born preterm each year. — That’s around 15 million babies each year who are born too early. — 1 million children die each year from complications relating to preterm birth. — Preterm birth is now the leading cause of death of children under 5.

17th November 2022: #WorldPrematurityDay

Today is World Prematurity Day, a day to celebrate the health and wellbeing of babies born preterm.

The statistics take your breath away, but not in a good way.

Around the world…

  • More than 1 in 10 babies are born preterm each year.
  • That’s around 15 million babies each year who are born too early.
  • Around 1 million children die each year from complications relating to preterm birth.
  • Preterm birth is now the leading cause of death of children under 5.
  • Not just that, but over 20 million babies around the world have a low birthweight.

To mark the day, World Health Organization has issued new guidelines highlighting the importance of skin-to-skin contact from the moment of birth.

Supported by evidence, skin-to-skin contact can improve survival and health outcomes for babies born early (before 37 weeks of pregnancy) or small (under 2.5kg at birth).

What do the new WHO Guidelines say?

The guidelines advise skin to skin contact or kangaroo mother care (KMC) should start immediately after birth for preterm or low birth-weight babies, without any initial period in an incubator.

According to the WHO News Release: “This marks a significant change from earlier guidance and common clinical practice, reflecting the immense health benefits of ensuring caregivers and their preterm babies can stay close, without being separated, after birth.”

Included in the guidelines, WHO recommendations for preterm (before 37 weeks’ gestation) or low birth-weight (beflow 2.5kg) babies:

  • A1a “Any KMC: Kangaroo mother care (KMC) is recommended as routine care for all preterm or

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Toni Harman

I help parents and health professionals better understand the science of pregnancy, birth, breastfeeding and the microbiome. https://linktr.ee/toniharman