Anyone who has had a premature baby knows just how difficult it can be to see their child in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). In this unit, the babies are kept for observation with vital sign sensors stuck on their little bodies. While it can be daunting enough to see one's child in that condition, what makes it worse is that the parent cannot even cuddle with the child due to the hoard of wires.
Now, a new form of technology can come to the aid of such parents and can help them cuddle with their child in the NICU, which can prove to have multiple benefits for the child's health as well. Researchers have developed new silicone sensors that are ultra-light and are even flexible. But what makes them unique is that they're wireless. Normally, five electrodes and sensors are placed on the baby to monitor heartbeats, breathing, temperature and oxygen in the blood.
But these sensors, on the other hand, happen to be just two and 0.8 inches long and are only attached to the chest and foot of the baby. They operate without batteries and use a water-based adhesive gel which happens to be 10 times lighter than the normal one used. “We were drawn to the neonatal health monitoring area because we felt like our devices would add maximum value in that context,” said a researcher.
“Premature babies are at a fragile health status, they require a lot of monitoring, and at the same time, their skin is underdeveloped -- it’s very sensitive, it’s easily damaged and disrupted.” “It is very very difficult to feed your baby so tiny and small and hooked up to so many machines. It causes a barrier in being able to hold and bond with a medically fragile child,” added the researcher.
“We know that skin-to-skin contact is so important for newborns -- especially those who are sick or premature,” said a dermatologist. “You can study how the baby’s vital signs change when it’s being held, and you can really quantify all of those things, how the heart rate is modulated by mother-child interaction,” said a researcher talking about the new technology.