The Next Best Thing to a Mother's Beating Heart?
A new product being tested abroad replicates a mother's heart beat and chest movements for preemies confined to an incubator
It is one of the most iconic images of motherhood: A new mother, still recovering from labor but beaming as she holds her newborn in her arms. But the mothers of fragile preemies too often miss this amazing moment.
“All those dreams I had for bonding with my new baby are now nightmares because I couldn’t even hold my baby for the first few days,” wrote preemie mom Jennifer Sweetman on the site preemiebabies101.com.
The makers of a new device hope that parents like Sweetman will someday rest assured that even when pre-term infants are separated from their mothers for days or weeks at a time, they can still feel the sensation of being near their mothers and reap health benefits as a result.
The inventors of the BABYBE say their device can, for preemies, replicate some of the sensation of lying on a mother’s chest, including her heart beat and chest movements. They’re now raising money to continue testing their product–initial trials have already been conducted in China and Germany–in hopes of eventually bringing it to hospitals.
The idea is that the device can help compensate for the lack of skin-to-skin contact between incubator-bound preterm infants and their mothers. Skin-to-skin contact and Kangaroo care–a method of holding newborns–is considered especially beneficial for preemies’ health, but some can only get one hour of such contact per day.
BABYBE’s founders industrial designer Camilo Anabalon and engineer Raphael Lang, who met as graduate students in Stuttgart, Germany, made “bridging the gap between preterm babies and their parents” their goal after visiting a neonatal intensive care unit, they wrote on the BABYBE website.
“What we saw changed our vision of health care,” they said. “In a room within a room there was a big machine full of wires, hoses, lights and beeps; inside that machine there was a newborn baby… But what really changed our perception was the one element we did not see in that room. That element, the parents, was waiting outside in agony for a glimpse of that baby.”
Here’s how the BABYBE works: A mother holds a soft device called a “Turtle” to her chest. The Turtle records information on the mother’s breathing and heart beat. The Turtle then wirelessly transmits the information to a second component called the “Cradle,” which translates the info “into pneumatic action,” according to the company.
Last but not least is the bionic mattress, which is controlled by the Cradle and emulates a mother’s heart beat and chest movement. The mattress can be placed beneath preemies confined to incubators.
Following clinical trials and FDA certification, the founders of BABYBE hope to bring their product to market in late 2014.
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