Many hospitals use incubators for newborn babies, however, it has been found that this can have negative effects on the baby. Studies
have shown that newborn babies benefit more from skin-to-skin contact than they do from being placed in an incubator, according to Dr. Barbara Wilford, associate professor for the Allied Health and Nursing program at Lorain County Community College.
In order for this to be done, newborns must be monitored by an extra nurse and the mother must keep the baby’s arms up and their head turned to the side to avoid Sudden Unexpected Postnatal Collapse (SUPC).
SUPC is what happens when a newborn gets relaxed enough so their heads drop in such a way that they asphyxiate themselves. To avoid these circumstances, Wilford is working with hospitals to implement the use of a sensor that she designed. This sensor will monitor all the baby’s vitals and will alert doctors, nurses, and even parents if anything goes wrong. This would allow more skin-to-skin contact between mother and baby with a decrease in the risk of SUPC.
Wilford is working with students from LCCC and Case Western Reserve’s Biomedical Masters program to complete this project. The sensor is designed to fit around the right wrist of a newborn baby and will be wireless. The sensor could also eliminate the need for an extra nurse to be present.
Wilford and students have already created an adult sized sensor that works similar to an Oximeter that doctors put on patient’s fingers. The sensor must be designed as a bracelet as things like an Oximeter do not fit on the tiny fingers of newborns. The next step forward is to receive a grant that will allow them to begin the process of miniaturizing the adult sized sensor they created.
Currently there are a couple of hospitals in Lorain County that are using the skin-to-skin method. University Hospital in Elyria and Mercy Hospitals have begun to use this method for healthy and happy babies. Wilford is taking the project a step further by working with students to create a mobile app for parents so that they can monitor the sensor from their device. Wilford predicts that the project will be completed within a year’s time.