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Sunday, February 26, 2012

Embrace for babies

An incubator can cost up to $20,000 and requires electricity.  Many premature and low birth weight babies born in 3rd world countries live in rural areas with no electricity. Access to a hospital is difficult at best.  In many of these cultures, the babies are not named for the first month because so many of them die, many from hypothermia.  They have no fat on their bodies and cannot keep warm.  The mothers try various ways to keep them warm, from heating towels in the frying pan and wrapping the baby, to holding the child over hot coals.  But still, many die.  Those who survive are faced with a life full of health problems because so much of their energy went to trying to stay warm that their organs suffer. In India, more babies die every year than in any other country in the world.

In 2008, Stanford University put together a unique class.  It was multi-disciplinary and was called Entrepreneurial Design for Extreme Affordability.  One of the assignments for the students was to come up with an incubator (one use of an incubator is for warmth) for premature and low birth weight infants that would not only keep them warm, but use no electricity and cost less than $200.
Four of the students, Jane Chen, Rahul Panicker, Naganand Murty and Linus Liang, teamed up on the project.  Among the four, their schooling already consisted of a Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering, an Aerospace Engineer, and a Masters in Computer Science.  What they came up with was sheer genius!

Here it is.

It looks like a sleeping bag for a baby.  A pouch filled with paraffin wax and water is heated - either with an electric warmer or with boiling water being poured over it - and the pouch is slipped inside a pocket in the bag.  The baby is wrapped up inside the bag and the wax keeps the baby warm for 4-6 hours.  The inside of the bag is seamless so that bacteria won't collect, and it can be washed in boiling water.  It took two years of prototypes before this one came about.  The company, Embrace, is currently in India getting the distribution and training under way.  Then they will move to other countries.

It is hoped that over the next 5 years, 100,000 babies can be saved.

Now you have heard something interesting.


  1. I learned something new today. Thanks so much. This is fantastic!