You may find it surprising that if you are pregnant in India, you would be well advised to pack your bags and head off to the slums of Delhi to complete your term. The fact that maternal healthcare is significantly better in many of Delhi’s slums that in the country as a whole is due to the work of Asha, an organisation established in 1988 by then newly qualified Indian paediatrician Kiran Martin. Kiran first visited a slum to treat victims of a cholera outbreak, and used a small gazebo as a base for people to visit. Asha now has healthcare on the doorstep of over fifty slum communities, reaching around 450,000 people. Asha’s maternal healthcare statistics.
Out Of India
In 2009, Consultant Midwife Sarah Gregson visited Delhi from the UK as one of a team of volunteers from New Generation Church. She saw the work of Asha first hand “It was a life changing experience” recalls Sarah. “Kiran and her team, against all odds, were bringing hope to poor and hungry communities in cramped and unsanitary living conditions where disease was rife and giving birth was a gamble”. Inspired by the work and with a shared passion for improving maternal healthcare, Sarah and her GP husband Steve decided to support the Asha charity.
Back at home, Sarah works with a team of midwives at Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust. One of their favoured practices is Kangaroo Care, where mums and babies bond in the hours and days following birth through close “Skin to Skin” contact.
Pioneering, Award Winning Research
It was this team that made the first UK study to investigate Kangaroo Care in a postnatal ward environment. They found Kangaroo Care babies needed a shorter hospital stay – four days rather than the five for those with ‘usual’ care – and there was more exclusive breastfeeding on discharge from hospital; 72% vs 55%. The research delivered positive results for Kangaroo Care and won the Royal College of Midwives National Award and an All Party Parliamentary Group Award.
KangaWrap Is Born
A baby wrap was used to aid mums with Kangaroo Care during the research. Whilst successful, most mums commented that the wrap was quite heavy and hot, so the experience was not as pleasant as it could have been. Unable to find a lighter, cooler wrap, the midwives wondered if they could make one themselves.
The team started to source a material for a more comfortable wrap. With the focus on Kangaroo Care from birth, rather than just baby carrying, the name KangaWrap was coined for the new product.
An Army Of Volunteers!
Finding the material was just the start. Now there was other work to do and the team grew beyond the hospital. Sarah began to gather friends around her to help with the different elements of the journey; setting up a company, protecting designs, ensuring compliance, logo, instructions, photography, web and social media, packing and despatching, the list seemed endless. But, at every step of the way, Sarah found a willing volunteer with the specialism required for the job at hand. Her infectious enthusiasm meant she was hard to turn down!
Profits Help Mums In Need
Trade4Life was set up to specify, source, promote and sell the KangaWrap to hospitals, users, retailers and sling libraries. Staffed by volunteers, maximum profits could be used to fund maternal and child healthcare in developing communities. KangaWrap supports Asha-India.org on an ongoing basis and makes one off gifts to other work. So, every KangaWrap product bought helps another mum!
Even the manufacture of the KangaWraps helps mums; a partnership was forged with an established fair trade company in Mauritius. Most of their workers are mums, who may otherwise be exploited or unemployed.
Successful Research For Caesarean Births
KangaWraps started to sell, while the midwives at Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells continued their work to promote Kangaroo Care. Additional research was performed to find better ways to serve mums who give birth via Caesarean Section and the team designed a new product, the KangaWrap Kardi, for this study. The Kangawrap Kardi enables mums to have Kangaroo Care (or ‘Skin to Skin’) immediately and in comfort after a Caesarean birth.
The study showed favourable results and, like the KangaWrap, the KangaWrap Kardi is being taken up by other hospitals and birthing centres who are keen to practise Kangaroo Care. Watch the hospital’s short film to show this baby-friendly Caesarean Birth.
The KangaWrap Kardi is only available for supervised use in hospitals for caesarean Birth and the hours immediately following it. On discharge from hospital, a KangaWrap is perfect for Kangaroo Care for mum (or dad!) and baby.
Playful Learning For The Next Generation
As well as providing products to assist Kangaroo Care, KangaWrap and the Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells research midwives came up with the idea of a toy KangaWrap, for toddlers to carry their favourite doll. It provides older siblings with hours of fun copying mummy while they learn about Kangaroo Care – and it’s more manageable than a toy buggy!
Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation
The team is having international impact too. In November 2014, Sarah Gregson was invited to represent the KangaWrap midwives at a conference in Rwanda hosted by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. With premature birth the No1 reason for neonatal death, the conference focussed on the potential of Kangaroo Care to help the survival of pre-term babies.
Save The Children
In 2015, following a visit of a Chinese delegation to Tunbridge Wells Hospital to see Kangaroo care in action, the KangaWrap midwives went to Beijing to train teams of senior midwives, doctors and nurses to roll out Kangaroo Care in China. The initiative was orchestrated by Save the Children to support their work in China.
Want To Be Part Of The Story?
Kangaroo Care is being adopted in more places, benefitting mums (and dads!) and babies. Sales of KangaWrap products are up too, helping mums – and mums in need! Buying from Kangawrap makes you a valuable part of this story and getting in touch to post to our community page will help encourage others too.
If you are a dealer or library and would like to sell the KangaWrap and KangaWrap Joey; or if you are a healthcare professional and would like to introduce Kangaroo Care to your hospital or birthing centre, please get in touch; we would love to help you.
Asha India: Authentic Recipe Cookbook
Compiled by trustees of Asha from recipes submitted by members of some of Delhi’s slum communities, Hope & Spice is a cookbook that includes mouth-watering recipes as well as stories of life-transformation as a result of Asha’s work.
For details and sample recipes, click here. Profit to Asha-India.org.