The Incupod is a humanising incubator that brings parents and babies closer together. This product allows parents to hold and care for their sick newborns safely.
One in 10 babies born in Britain is premature – many are so tiny that it can be some time before their parents are able to take them out of their incubators and cuddle them.
A new design by an art graduate hopes to change this by creating the “humanising incubator”.
Instead of parents being able to get access to their newborn only through the portholes of an incubator, Sally Halls’ design would allow parents to pick up their baby and get important bonding sessions with it in the early stages.
“It brings them out of the incubator and back into the parent’s arms, whilst still maintaining all medical need,” said Ms Halls.
Sally, who won an award with her design from the Royal College of Arts, said the new incubator aimed to reduce the isolation of premature babies.
“I wanted to do something like this after seeing images in the media of sick babies with no human contact.
“I wanted to see if there was anything that could be done to give them contact in a more human way.
“As a new parent the first thing you want to do is to really hold your child, but even if you can, you worry that you are interfering with their recovery.”
In her new incubator, the baby would sit on a heated mattress that would then fold around it creating a closed, sealed environment when held by the parent. The mattress inside would also be specially designed to prevent bed sores and make it more comfortable for the baby who spends most of its time in there. There would also be an inflatable ring around the baby, allowing it to feel more secure and to mimic the conditions in the womb, and a humidifier would pump warm air around inside.
Dr Jane Hawdon, consultant neonatologist at University College London Hospital, said she had seen the prototype and said that while it was still in the early stages, it had potential.
“I thought it was excellent. She took the principles from her visit to our neonatal unit and she applied them well. I think in principle it would be very welcome.”
She said neonatal wards, like her own, always encouraged parents to have as much contact as possible with their babies, as this had been shown to improve recovery.
“Almost all neonatal units try to do all they can to bring babies out for cuddles and this is a very good way of doing this.
Read more about Incupod at Helen Hamlyn Research Centre…