Over 450 low-birthweight and premature infants die each hour from hypothermia, and at a cost of around $20,000 for modern incubators; there is a strong need for a low-cost method of keeping babies warm and alive.
Enter the Infant Warmer from the social enterprise Embrace Global, an innovative miniature sleeping bag that will cost less than $200. Made from a wax-filled heating pad sheathed in nylon, the product can keep the baby warm for four to six hours, then reheated in either an electric warmer or, if electricity is unavailable, in a water warmer for 20 minutes.
I do obviously think these could be made much more cost effective but the idea is so simple that it makes you think “why just now?” Wax cools slowly, and retains its heat well. A pad of wax that can be re-used again and again and again, without needing electricity, and a mini sleeping bag that allows the mother of a preemie to hold their child instead of stare at it through a plastic plate… that is not only brilliant but beautiful in its simplicity and common sense.
My daughter was born 6 weeks premature due to a kidney infection I had. I didn’t even know I was in labor, the pain of the infection and the fever put me into early labor and before the doctors could do anything, there she was. Her birth saved my life, but put her own at risk. It was not a trade I would have made, but I had no choice. Siddalee was 5 pounds 4 oz, a respectable birth weight for a preemie but as with most preemies she was immediately taken to the NICU, no ifs ands or buts. She was quite cold, having some trouble breathing, and had very low sugars/glucose. It was 12 hours before I got to hold her for the first time, and 8 days before we got to go home. That meant 8 days away from my family, home, and son… and we missed out on alot of the physical bonding a mother and baby should enjoy. Sidda frankly didnt know me from adam in the NICU, as I was only allowed to be with her for 2 hour windows, 6 times a day. She ate with a feeding tube initially and a bottle from there, we were not able to breastfeed. It was heartbreaking for me to see her there but I knew how lucky we were to have the finest medical care and knew both she and I might not have survived had we not been so well taken care of.
Still, I cant help but wonder about the healing power a mother naturally has. I carried her against my body, skin to skin, for weeks after we got home. I used a Moby wrap, and the warmth from my body kept hers warm. She gained weight, she pinked up, her hands and feet were kept warm… she ate regularly, slept regularly. I read a story once about a mother who was given her preemie, told the baby had passed, and left to grieve. She held her child, kept it warm… and it woke up. That mother brought her child back to life, a child who was declared dead and if she had not done that, the doctors would have been right. Kangaroo care is absolutely real, and healthy for mother and baby. The Embrace allows babies to be returned to their mother, held, fed, while still keeping warm. Its a beautiful thing.
If the embrace could be made more affordable, and available to rural hospitals/clinics all over the world, more premature babies would again have a fighting chance at life. What is more amazing than that.