Kangaroo Care (KC) techniques were originally used for preterm babies in Bogota, Columbia, in the 1970s. The goal was to create an alternative to expensive incubators in neonatal intensive care units (NICU) that weren’t available. KC was named because of the parallels to the way kangaroo mothers nurture their newborns. In the last 40 years, KC has become common in NICUs in the U.S. in addition to incubators, according to Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital. KC benefits for newborns of any weight include helping newborns regulate breathing and body temperature, bond with parents, improve immunity, reduce crying, and reduce stress. KC, or skin-to-skin care, even if used for just one hour, has shown success with all of the above and also supports success with initiating breastfeeding. Except for the improvement with breastfeeding, KC is beneficial when the babies are held close to the bare skin of fathers as well as mothers.

Hugsy, a wearable device — maybe better referred to as a “wrappable” — supports KC and can be used for continuous comfort even when the baby isn’t held by a parent. Hugsy was developed by students at the Eindhoven University of Technology in the Netherlands as a study project. Hugsy is a blanket that supports the baby during KC sessions. The blanket absorbs the parent’s smell during the session at the same time it helps keep both the baby and parent warm. A Hugsy Heartbeat Module records the parent’s heartbeat. The heartbeat sound is stored in the module and can be played back when the baby is wrapped in the blanket but not held by the parent. The whole point is to recreate some of the comforting sensations of being held against the parent’s skin.

During the student project, Hugsy was developed from concept to prototype and tested with staff at the Maxima Medical Center NICU in Veldhoven. Based on positive feedback, Hugsy was used in a clinical trial with 20 premature babies. Next came design awards, the formation of a company, and successful participation in an accelerator program. Plans include more clinical trials, fund-raising, application for regulatory approvals, a full consumer rollout in 2018, and eventual large-scale introduction to hospital NICUs. Hugsy is not yet available for sale, but you can get on a list for notice and possible early purchase of a limited edition of 99 Hugsy’s for full-term babies.