Buffalo, NY neonatologist Dr Munmun Rawat and team develop ‘kangaroo care’ device for preemies

Dr Munmun Rawat and her team at the Department of Pediatrics in the University at Buffalo, NY, has developed a device to mimic mom and dad’s breathing so that prematurely-born babies are not deprived of close contacts while in intensive care.

“I was so familiar with the benefits of kangaroo care that I wanted all babies to have the benefit. So it triggered the thought, ‘if we can’t bring the baby to the mother, why not bring the mother to the baby?” Dr Rawat, assistant professor, Department of Pediatrics in the University at Buffalo, was quoted as saying in a media release.

According to Dr Rawat, more than four decades of clinical data and research on kangaroo care has provided a solid foundation of evidence that babies derive significant clinical benefits from such physical proximity to their parents. They include improving the baby’s ability to breathe, regulating body temperature and promoting weight gain, as well as long-term advantages to the baby’s cognitive and motor development while benefiting parents and boosting the mother’s ability to lactate.

As a neonatologist, Dr Rawat, was determined to provide as much kangaroo care to her baby as she could. When her baby was born prematurely at 28 weeks and had to spend 62 days in the NICU, she knew that didn’t have to be a barrier.

“My baby was just 1,200 grams (about 2.6 pounds), but as soon as he could be held, I ‘kangarooed’ him throughout the day, holding him on my chest,” said Dr Rawat. “When I slept at night, my husband held him on his chest. Our son was ‘kangarooed’ for 12 out of 24 hours a day,” she said.

She visualized an incubator mattress that mimics the rhythm of mom and dad’s breathing, and their voices, and worked with students and faculty in the Department of Biomedical Engineering to develop that concept for babies too fragile to be held. The UB team has developed a prototype and will begin working on a technology disclosure.

A necklace made of sensors for the parents gathers data about their breathing patterns which are then programmed into the mattress, which then inflates and deflates in accordance with those breathing data. Another mechanical pump in the mattress replicates the vibration of the parent’s heartbeat. Another great creation, fabric doll that the mother can sleep with gathers her personal odors, that helps familiarize the infant with parents even if it is not skin-to-skin.

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