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Every year in India, 8 million babies are born prematurely and have low birth weight. These babies face a great challenge for survival in their early years – a challenge they have to fight with their gentle, delicate body. Of all the risks such babies face immediately after birth, the biggest is this: losing their body heat. Hypothermia, a condition where body temperatures fall below 36.5C or 97.7 F, can be near fatal for your preemie baby and bring on asphyxia, sepsis or even pneumonia. Our country continues to lose babies to hypothermia every year – indeed we have the highest number of infant deaths caused by premature birth – with the doctors and parents failing to keep them warm enough…
A prematurely born baby, or a baby whose birth weight is lower than normal standards, requires intensive care for several months after birth. During this period, your baby may be kept away from you in the NICU where he is placed in an incubator and is under observation day in and day out. When your baby is finally discharged from the hospital and you take him home, unfortunately, the risks are far from over. Babies are still susceptible to infection and illness – and to getting too cold. Of all the care new mothers administer to their babies, the most important thing is to maintain a newborn’s body temperature. This is trickier than it sounds, as you may take your baby’s temperature now and it may fall in the next few minutes – something you can easily overlook. Every moment is crucial for your newborn, and every moment that is unsupervised is a potential risk. But how can you possibly keep track of his body heat every second of the day, while at home?
Bangalore Team Creates a Baby Bracelet to Save Lives
It is precisely this challenge that a Bangalore-based startup called Bempu has set out to resolve. They have created a baby bracelet that constantly monitors a baby’s temperature and immediately sounds an alert if it goes too high or too low. These bracelets are powered by a battery that runs for a month, which is the most critical period for newborns. Medical professionals have received this invention with cheer and enthusiasm as it provides a targeted solution to keep babies monitored and healthy. Doctors across the country have started using the Bempu bracelet while babies are in the NICU. They have also started prescribing them for babies who are being discharged so they can live risk-free at home.
“New mothers are very worried about whether their babies are too warm or too cold. The bracelets are better than a thermometer because they are continuously monitoring the baby’s temperature. (With a thermometer) Say you take the baby’s temperature now, it can fall after 30 minutes, and you may not notice!”
– Dr Sanjay Wazir, Director, NICU, Gurgaon Hospital
Currently, the Bempu team is running a pilot scheme in Rajasthan, with the aim to make these bracelets a free handout for all babies being discharged from government hospitals. This is especially important as several government hospitals have a chaotic and under-staffed atmosphere – something that tremendously aggravates the risk for preemie and low weight babies who need constant monitoring. Moreover, many parents cannot afford to keep their baby in these hospitals for a long period as they need to travel back to their village for work. Even though they may realize that their baby needs the extra care, and want to do their best, the decision is affected by several factors, money and daily wages being an important one.
“The beds are always filled, the entire family is in the waiting room every day, there are often three babies in one incubator, where there should be only one. There’s a lack of staff, the nurses are overworked, running around with competing priorities. In all that, its hard to manage all these high-risk babies.”
How to Identify and Lower Your Baby’s Risk of Hypothermia
While these bracelets are powerful devices to regulate your baby’s temperature and seek medical help if something goes wrong, it is important to also train yourself in this regard. If your baby shows lower energy levels than usual, has reddish and cold skin, is not feeding well, or has a cool feeling in the abdomen, it is possible that he is going through an episode of hypothermia. As mom to preemie or low weight baby, you need to be especially careful to protect your baby from hypothermia and know exactly what to do if the temperature is too low or too high:
- Make sure your baby is well covered to prevent loss of heat but without overbundling him. Keep all potential choking hazards or things that could induce suffocation (loose blankets, pillows) far away from his bed
- Keep your baby’s room temperature comfortably warm, using a thermostat and a humidifier if needed
- Your baby may need the support of an incubator again in cases of severe hypothermia. You must call an ambulance at the earliest to get your baby under medical supervision
Cheers to the team at Bempu for coming up with something so thoughtful and effective for the children in India and across the world. If your baby was born under high risk conditions, we recommend you have a talk with your doctor and consider a method like this to keep your baby’s temperature regulated. Your little darling is very sensitive for the first few years of his life, and you must extend to him all the care you possibly can.