Seeing mother and newborn as one unit

Rethinking the newborn birth journey
November 17, 2017

The Newborn Exploration project focuses on discovering new approaches and alternative methods to improving quality of care for newborns in low-resource settings.

During the project the M4ID team has mapped out relevant past research, conducted a series of interviews with global experts including midwives, neonatologists, paediatricians and obstetricians, as well as visited several facilities in different countries. As a result, we have mapped out the challenges and barriers in newborn health globally and locally and built newborn care journeys in India, Nigeria and Finland. The aim is to develop improved products, services and spaces addressing the most relevant issues in newborn health care, including the care of preterm babies.


The ideal newborn care journey


The importance of skin-to-skin contact
Skin-to-skin contact between mother and baby was one of the key topics highlighted by the interviewed experts and reinforced during other research activities. Strong evidence shows a great deal of advantages, such as calmness, thermo-regulation and breastfeeding initiation, just from keeping the baby in skin-to-skin contact with their mother for the first hour after birth. Unfortunately, during field research we found skin-to-skin contact clearly neglected in many of the researched facilities.

This crucial bonding time between mother and baby is often interrupted by other care practices or does not exist at all in some facilities. For instance, in the observed facility in India, all babies are placed under the radiant warmer instead of providing enough bonding time for mother and baby. In some facilities in Nigeria the babies are sent to nurseries after essential care practices. In contrast, there is no more nurseries existing in Finnish hospitals, where skin-to-skin contact is strongly promoted and supported.

Therefore, seeing mother and baby as one unit naturally became our key design principle to rethink the birth journey experience.

Next steps
The project is now moving forward to the next phase for ideation. Based on the current findings, the team will generate potential solutions. Meanwhile, more insights will be gathered through testing our concepts in the field.  Design sprints for ideation involving external experts and partners will take place in mid-December. We are hoping to come up with solutions that support health care providers and empower mothers to take up basic care practices that are simple and essential, yet currently not used.