Industrial Designer Develops Wireless 'Smart Jacket" For Premature Babies
An industrial design student received her PhD cum laude last month for her design of a Smart Jacket for premature babies. Her creation will, no doubt, launch a successful career for a new graduate, but change the lives of millions of premature infants and their families...
Premature births have actually increased in the last several years due primarily to women having children at a later age, to in vitro fertilization, and to more twins and other multiple births occurring. One of eight births in the U.S. are premature, according to the Center for Disease Control, born before 37 weeks in their mother's wombs. Babies born prematurely must be monitored closely, literally wired-up to monitors, and kept in incubators to keep them alive and to prevent a host of health issues that may occur.
One of the major obstacles to normal development for 'preemies' is the absence of their mothers during a significant period of their lives, a time when they have just left a very nurturing, warm place in their mothers' wombs. After birth, they are placed in a starkly different environment in an incubator in an intensive care unit with wires and adhesives attached to their skin. The stress caused by the absence of physical and emotional contact with their families is believed to be at least partially responsible for developmental problems later in their childhoods, many that last to adulthood.
Sibrechtn Bouwstra and her colleagues at Eindhoven University and the Maxima Medical Center in Eindhoven, The Netherlands have designed, with the assistance of a fabric manufacturer, a wireless 'baby jacket' that includes the important sensors necessary to monitor the baby's vital functions, but is comfortable to wear. Because the jacket is wireless, the parents have more freedom to hold and to move around with the baby, providing the parental bonding, warmth, and positive stimuli that can help support both intellectual and emotional needs of an infant.
In addition to this vital contribution to the entire family of a premature baby, the Smart Jacket, which can be worn inside and outside of the incubator, obviates the need to adhere wires to the infant's skin, which leads to infections quite often due to having to replace the wires repeatedly.