Stanford Students Created a $300 version of a $20K Incubator For Babies in the Developing World

embrace warmer

Each year, more than 1 million babies die on their birth day.

About 20 million premature and low birth weight babies are born worldwide each year with 4 million dying within the first 4 weeks of life, according to the World Health Organization.  This amounts to 450 babies that die each hour and a substantial number of those that die are born in the developing world where there are not enough incubators which cost about $20,000.

Also, many babies are born in rural areas far from hospitals with adequate facilities to care for a premature newborn. A lot of the babies really just need warmth an incubator provides during those first crucial months.  Some babies are born with so little fat and many are unable to control their own body temperatures.

About 6 years ago, four Stanford University students were challenged in a class project to design a portable life-saving incubator that cost less than $300. The group, led by then female student, Jane Chen traveled to India, where the caregiver to patient ration is 1:2,000, to research and perfect their design.

And they did it, creating the Embrace Infant Warmer.

incubator and embrace

“Incubators are vital because the internal organs of premature babies are not fully developed at birth,” Chen wrote in a 2010 piece on CNN.com. Chen is now the co-founder and CEO of Embrace Innovations, a social enterprise that aims to help the 20 million premature and low birth weight babies born every year, through a low cost infant warmer.

She explained the concept and design of Embrace:

Embrace Infant Warmers are non-electric, miniature sleeping bags that use a removable wax insert, which can be heated safely using hot water. The product is easy to sanitize and can be heated over and over again.

The product has been designed specifically for resource-constrained settings. It looks like a small sleeping bag, which incorporates a wax-like phase change material in a plastic pouch that melts at body temperature (98.6 F) to keep the baby at a constant temperature.

The PCM pouch can be heated with either a short burst of electricity or by placing it in boiling water. Once melted, it can maintain a constant temperature for up to eight hours, after which it can be reheated.

In addition to being low cost, the product does not require a constant supply of electricity, complements existing practices such as skin-to-skin care and is extremely safe and intuitive to use.

After creating a prototype, the team launched a successful Kickstarter campaign to produce their first round of Warmers used in India.  Today, Embrace ships the warmers to local clinics and other areas in the developing worldwide.  Costing less than 1% of a traditional incubator, the Embrace Infant Warmer  has helped over 150,000 babies to date.

The goal is to save the lives of 20 Million babies and they are well on their way. Embrace is not stopping there. This May, it launched another campaign and are creating a line of affordable healthcare technologies for women and children around the world.


This invention looks like a tiny sleeping bag and it s helped save 150 000 babies.
Good stuff!


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