Babies born with a low birth weight or prematurely number 20 million each year. This figure doesn’t seem that alarming until you learn how many of them die each hour: 450. The premature and low birth weight babies who don’t survive are usually born in the developing world where access to medical care is limited. Among the most common problems suffered by these babies is the inability to regulate their own body temperature. As a result, a normal room temperature to other babies feels freezing cold to a premature or low birth weight baby. This inability to stay warm often leads to death. Even if these babies in the developing world survive, they are often plagued with continued health problems.

EMBRACE, a nonprofit based out of San Francisco, is working to combat the problem of temperature regulation for premature and low birth weight babies in the most vulnerable places of the world. They target the issue by providing a low-cost, highly effective infant warmer that resembles a mini sleeping bag. EMBRACE says that preventing hypothermia with an affordable and accessible solution can impact lives around the world. Their incubator solution is an alternative to traditional, expensive incubators, and its life-giving warmth can improve the health of premature babies who often suffer from low IQ, heart disease and diabetes later in life. Low birth weight and premature babies’ bodies have to work harder just to keep warm, which can result in organs not growing properly.

The nonprofit’s incubators also touch on population growth. EMBRACE cites Muhammad Yunus, the 2006 winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, who said that parents feel more confident about using appropriate birth control when their children have a greater survival rate.

The infant warmer designed and offered by EMBRACE is a baby-blue colored, mini sleeping bag that keeps a steady temperature for up to six hours. The product consists of three main parts: the AccuTemp Heater, the WarmPak and the Baby Wrap. The AccuTemp Heater is small case that opens like a laptop and runs off of an AC power source or generator. The WarmPak is the piece that is heated inside the AccuTemp Heater to 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit, which Embrace says is a critical temperature for newborns. Once the WarmPak is fully heated inside the AccuTemp Heater, it is removed from the case and placed inside the BabyWrap, which is the mini sleeping bag. By trapping heat from the WarmPak in the BabyWrap, the infant is enveloped in an appropriate temperature.

EMBRACE says their BabyWrap is designed to reduce heat loss during the transfer from the WarmPak, which keeps the infant warmer. Effective for about six hours at time, the long-term impact is enough to save an infant’s life.

Georganne Hassell

Photo: Wired