The Embrace Infant Warmer Saves Babies' Lives

Brilliance | Dec. 13, 2017

Every year, three million premature babies die in their first month of life because they lack the body fat they need to keep warm. In industrialized nations, these infants are routinely placed in incubators, but in impoverished countries, the $20,000 price tag for one of these machines is often unaffordable. The members of the company Embrace first met in a Stanford design class that challenged them to create a medical device that costs a fraction of that. After a few research trips to Nepal and India, they came up with a working prototype.

What they created was the Embrace infant warmer, a fabric swaddle that looks like a sleeping bag and hides a pouch of wax-like "phase-change material". You can heat the pouch for a few minutes either with hot water or an electric heater, then slide it into the warmer, which is wrapped around the premature baby to keep it warm for up to eight hours. After that, the process can be repeated thousands of times. Beyond it not requiring electricity and costing a fraction of the price of an incubator—one warmer is just $200—the device does traditional methods one better. Its portable nature makes it so babies can get the warmth they need while in their mothers' arms, instead of while they're sealed away from human touch. Learn more about this innovation in the videos below.

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