A randomized controlled trial was conducted over a 1-year period (November 2001-November 2002) in Addis Ababa to study the effectiveness of early Kangaroo mother care before stabilization of low birthweight infants as compared with the conventional method of care. There were 259 babies weighing less than 2000 g during the study period and a total of 123 (47.5 per cent) low birthweight infants were included in to the study. Sixty-two infants were enrolled as Kangaroo Mother Care (KMC) and the remaining 61 were Conventional Method of Care (CMC) cases. The demographic and socioeconomic characteristics for both groups were comparable. The mean age at the time of enrollment was 10 and 9.8 h for KMC and CMC, respectively (p>0.05 with 95 per cent confidence interval). The mean birthweight was 1514.8 g (range 1000-1900 g) for KMC and 1471.8 g (range 930-1900 g) for CMC (p>0.05 with 95 per cent CI) and the mean gestational age was 32.42 and 31.59 weeks for KMC and CMC cases, respectively. Fifty-eight per cent of KMC and 52 per cent of CMC cases were on i.v. fluid. Twenty-one of 62 (34 per cent) of KMC and 23/61 (37 per cent) of CMC babies were on oxygen through nasopharyngeal catheter. The mean age at exit from the study was 4.6 days for KMC and 5.4 days for CMC. Ninety-one per cent and 88 per cent of babies in KMC and CMC were discharged from the study in the first 7 days of life, respectively. The study showed that 14/62 (22.5 per cent) of KMC vs. 24/63 (38 per cent) CMC babies died during the study (p<0.05 and CI of 95 per cent.) The majority of deaths occurred during the first 12 h of life. Survival for the preterm low birthweight infants was remarkably better for the early kangaroo mother care group than the babies in the conventional method of care in the first 12 h and there after. More than 95 per cent of mothers reported that they were happy to care for their low birthweight babies using the early Kangaroo mother method. It was recommended to study the feasibility and effectiveness of Kangaroo mother care at the community level.