Refine My Line: Embrace Infant Warmer pt.3

I heard back from Rajan who is the product manager for the Embrace Infant Warmer (if you need to catch up, see part one and part two). He sent me a selection of photos of the latest prototype. As you’ll see, the product’s development has become much more complex.

Our challenge to improve the warmer continues -such that I’m going to sweeten the pot on this one. I will be awarding a prize for suggestions that are incorporated into the product. In the event of two or more winners, we’ll draw names (I arbitrarily select Alison as the official judge). The winner can pick one of three books -all are new. The possible prizes are Handford’s Grading Book, Pattern Magic 1 or Pattern Magic 2.

Keep in mind that once product features become more robust -as these have-, the challenge becomes one of simplification with the goal of containing costs without sacrificing features. I’ll drop the photos below and leave links to the larger file versions at close. Your suggestions are welcome.

Rajan asked me to take down the hi-res photos from the public side so you can find them here in the forum.

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  1. Kathleen, I’m not sure whether to feel honoured or punished.

    Do you know where the wax tablet (if I recall correctly) is inserted? I don’t see an obvious pocket opening.

  2. Who said it was you? Kidding.
    Maybe it’s a little of both, but really, you’re Caesar’s wife (ibid).

    The opening for the wax tablet isn’t obvious, see photo 5 (boy I’m glad I went to the trouble of numbering them). You can see what looks like a sewn down velcro closure near the back neck.

  3. Marianne says:

    Hmmm… I haven’t made anything like this, but I do love making useful and functional items. It makes me wonder about the circumstances that caused the first one to be created…

    These are my thoughts for possible “improvements” to simplify and decrease product costs:

    1. Is there a need for a double top layer? I think maybe not, since a large part of the top area is made up of the window, which is probably not that insulating. If not, perhaps one of the side flaps could be less wide, say only 2 or 3 inches, just enough so the other side overlaps it by a couple of inches. This would save the work of creating one of the windows, plus some fabric.

    2. 3 heavy duty straps seem more than necessary to keep everything snug, maybe just 2 would suffice? Is there a reason that such heavy straps & clips are being used rather than smaller straps? I also wonder why velcro is not being used for the side closure, since it is used on the bottom closure. Maybe it is the noise factor — opening velcro fasteners can be noisy!

    3. the body looks a bit longer than necessary, but maybe there is a reason for this since it became longer since the first prototype.

    4. I think this would add to the cost, but if I had to use this for my baby, I would want the front split so that a diaper could be changed without opening everything up and losing all the precious warmth. I can just imagine changing a diaper and feeling a need to lay a blanket over top of the baby to keep her warm as I lifted the flaps — would it be better to allow the top to remain closed?

    It’s been a long time since I had babies, but it was fun looking at this product and imagining how I would use it!

  4. Marianne says:

    Oh wait, I see that the side straps are fastened by velcro, not clips — first through the ring then folded back onto themselves. Still they look quite a bit more heavy duty than they need to be…. as does the triple velcro closure on the bottom.

  5. Lesley says:

    I was going to say that you probably wouldn’t need the wax tablet quite so big and square, but I like the fact that you would be able to see the temperature gauge at a glance.
    I also like the support behind the head.
    I’m not sure what the windows on the body would be for – Marianne is right, they take up a lot of the room, and wouldnn’t provide any insulation across the chest. I wouldn’t have thought that you would need them to check on the baby’s temperature – that’s normally checked at the back of the neck – so all i can think is that it’s to keep an eye on the hands? but I think that the sensation of plastic on the baby’s hands wouldn’t be that comfortable, really.
    I do like the idea of the double flaps across the top – if one was only a couple of inches wide, it could be displaced by the baby wiggling, especially if the baby is a Houdini.
    The straps look like they are velcro that thread through the loops and then fasten back against themselves?
    Marianne, i think that you would be able to change the nappy if you released the bottom fastener, loosened the middle one and lifted the flaps out of the way, without losing much of the heat.
    Okay, I am officially bad at this game – I can’t see a lot that I would change!

  6. Don says:

    An excellent product but if I could suggest one thing- There seems to be a gap in the flaps at each bottom corner. If the lining were to be slightly longer (perhaps with elastic) that the child’s feet went into. There there would not be any air getting in those corners.

  7. April says:

    I’m baffled by the set of clear windows. I know they must serve a purpose, as they have been carefully engineered.

    It might be nice if the back hood area was reinforced or stiffened for built-in baby neck support.

    The redesigned hood still seems like it would allow a lot of heat loss. Could the hood edge be darted or seamed in several places so it would draw in a bit more closely around the face.

    What would prevent a baby from slipping down into the pouch and suffocating? Even with the straps tightened, a baby could drift down. What about some sort of built-in harnessing device, like an adjustable height crotch sling inside the pouch.

    Will babies will be transported across distances in these pouches? I imagine women walking miles to and from their villages with them. If so, I wonder if there are any hoops or loops or straps that would make it easier for the woman to wear the baby, throw it on her back, etc.

  8. Jen Mc says:

    Speaking as a mom who has had a baby in the NICU, I am wondering if there should be some kind of opening to thread wires and tubes through. For example one of those eyephone cap thingies they put in hoodies and coats that you thread your earphone wire through to your mp3 player inside your bag or coat. Also a little pouch to act as a wire holder so that when they pick the baby up there isn’t wires dangling every where (maybe something that can be fastened and un fastened to the outside). I think this is an awesome idea as those warming beds can be quite expensive!!

  9. Anir says:

    I would change the flap on the bottom to the center and have it fold to the front. I was looking at videos of swaddling and that’s basically how a swaddle is done. If the flap comes from bottom to front this might help solve the potential problem of the baby slipping down into the pouch that April mentioned.

  10. Anir says:

    oh, and I would shorten the flap to about half it’s length at least. I don’t see any reason for it to be as long as it is.

  11. Nora says:

    What a change from the first prototype!

    Anir already suggested having the bottom flap fold to the front. I would also add to have the side velcro fasteners close to the front. It reminds me of my very first diaper change not too long ago and in my inexperience I put it on backwards, wondering why I had to turn the baby around to fasten the diaper.

    I would also apply one large piece of velcro at the bottom flap instead of the 3 strips. It just seems complicated to have to align them and would cut down on labour.

    Like some of the others, I also cannot find a purpose for the clear openings, especially the one on the side . If they don’t serve a necessary purpose, I would remove them.

    I’m not so sure if I’m seeing this correctly, but in pic 3 it looks like the warmer is attached to something that looks like a cushion in the back. I don’t know if it’s feasible, but could one omitt the back of the warmer and attach the flaps to the cushion? That way one could save yardage and labour and also achieve some symmetry (I like symmetry) at the bottom and not have one round corner and one square.

    Don pointed out that the bottom corners are open and will release heat. Maybe one could sew elastic into the corners of the fold so the corners “hide” inside the flap?

  12. Sasha says:

    I wish there were a way to include a picture or diagram with this. I agree with the idea that the warmer should be based more closely on some of the infant swaddlers already on the market. The prototype, when opened, should look similar to an unfolded envelope, with one of the unfolded flaps being the hood. The velcro pads should be larger rectangles instead of straps that become tangled with each other. I used to have a knee brace that required straps to close and they were forever getting tangled with everything around it and tearing up whatever fabric they came in contact with. If you have velcro patches sewn into the design that would lessen the likelihood of tangling straps. It might also lessen wear and tear on the warmer itself.

    I was trying to think of a way to make diaper changing easier without sacrificing functionality or warmth but really the most hygenic and easiest way to deal with this is to just try to be as quick as possible and change the diaper in the warmest environment possible.

    I’m also curious as to what function the clear windows present. If they’re not insulating and there’s no way to insulate that part they should probably be removed. Has the idea of having the thin medical mylar thermal blanket material used as a buffer lining between the fabric been floated around? They are AMAZING at keeping heat in and are often found at marathons and in emergency responder kits. They’re a little noisy by themselves but when sandwiched between fabric I doubt it would be an issue. Then again we don’t want to bake the child like a potato. Maybe just one flap lined with it?

    My second daughter had a terrible time regulating her heat when she was born and was kept under this thing that looked like a demonic tanning bed and I wish that she’d had something like this instead. They wouldn’t even let me hold her. This seems so much more soothing to both the mother and child.

    Good luck with the project!

  13. Deanna says:

    I would separate the functions of snugging and fastening. Just like hiker’s backpacks. Fasten with a separating zipper and then snug with the straps and buckles on the opposite side which don’t need to be undone, just adjusted. Maybe one to keep the arms snug and one under the bum area to keep baby from sliding down if you pick her up. First it’s easier to do up when your fingers are cold, it’s dark and you are stupefied by lack of sleep. (speaking from my foggy memory)
    I would reduce the hood and go with knit caps to keep the head warm.
    Also, from just looking at the photos (couldnt load the source pg for some reason. Sorry if I’m out to lunch) it looks like cottony nylony-ish fabric. As a mom who diapered with cloth I have to point out the merits of a felted merino wool for breathing, warming, not soaking through. I would check to see if the heat would transfer more readily through a wet nappy to burn a cute little bum.

  14. Marie-Christine says:

    I like all of Marianne’s suggestions. I also like the idea of fastening on top, rather than underneath – less esthetically pleasing perhaps but much more sensible for the person doing the fastening. There does seem to be way too much fastening unless you’re going to be putting the baby on horseback and stuff.

    It seems to me the hood could be a lot longer on top – more like this proportion which is easy to sew (curved seam from side to side) but keeps you much warmer. The forehead here seems very exposed to me. It’s fine if the baby slips and it’s eyes get covered up occasionally, she won’t get suffocated even if the hood is down her nose, in fact the nose itself functions well as a device to keep airway open, protecting it and the mouth from things coming down from above.

    I don’t think there’s much cause to worry about air getting through the bottom corners. Let’s not forget very young premature babies aren’t able to move much. By the time they can kick enough to wiggle down and let air in, they’re pretty much going to live, this isn’t meant to be a bag for normal wiggly 6-month-olds. Also until recently many baby were firmly bound up in blankets for a few months after birth, and if anything it seemed to keep them calmer.
    I’m also very curious about the function of the window? If the baby’s laying on the heater, how could the front window be useful? Can the seams on its borders be kept smooth enough not to irritate baby skin?

    I can’t really see the fabric from the pictures, I’m assuming synthetics for ease of washing and disinfecting. But the inside at least looks shiny, which implies slick. Eeeck! The outside fabric should not be slick because then you’d need the baby to be set onto a perfectly level surface (think sliding down into your tent partner when you’re on the uphill side..). On the inside, it’d increase the chances of the baby slipping down into a potentially suffocating position. And as we all know, flannel sheets feel much warmer than slick ones, so the inside at least should be as flannelly feeling as possible. I’d even advocate polarfleece, 100 weight microfiber.

    Especially as the insulation looks a bit board-like and flat to me. But I could see why you’d want some that didn’t flatten too badly underneath the baby, so more Thinsulate than something down-like. And to keep the same thing throughout for ease of manufacturing and keeping price down. But have you thought about a thin mylar layer, to help with radiant heat loss? That’s the stuff that rescue blankets are made of. I’ve had a duvet with a layer of that (toward the inside is best), and it sure warmed me up -much- faster. I believe also that radiant heat loss is worse for smaller people, which preemies certainly would be extreme examples of.

    Of course you may consider different models for winter and summer, or for different climates.. The fur that would keep an inuit baby warm would probably do in a Southern Indian one :-). But this design does seem to pick up nicely the design of a traditional carrier perhaps a fake fur ruff around the hood would be a traditional idea to also incorporate?

  15. Matthew Pius says:

    A few comments from someone who works in the medical field here (though not in nursery, admittedly) – as someone else pointed out, the intended use for this item is newborns who would otherwise need to be inside an incubator or some other form of baby warmer. These babies might be a little squirmy, but often don’t if wrapped up tightly. Also, while comfort against the skin is not insignificant, I think the primary concern in choice of materials will probably be ease of laundering. We have to assume that the manufacturer has done their homework on this.

    Regarding the flap at the bottom – in addition to Nora’s comment about one large piece of velcro being less work to sew on than three separate strips, having a large velcro piece on the flap and one or two strips on the body would allow more adjustability in length. Right now, the width is highly adjustable to the size of the baby, but length is not. Also, I would like to see some adjustability at the sides of the hood, too. Experienced nursery nurses are used to creating a tightly wrapped “baby burrito” with a blanket. I think they would find the looseness at the sides unseemly. I also agree with others that having all closures on the front would make a big difference. I realize all these comments bleed into “design” rather than “construction” so may not be fully appropriate within the bounds of RML.

    Also, regarding the comments above – it may be that the small gaps at the bottom corners were intended (whether a prior or post-hoc, we’ll never know) to provide an opening for monitor wires, IV tubes, etc. It’s perfectly reasonable to have all wires/tubes run down the body and exit the warmer by the feet, in fact having IV tubing run through the warm environment some before the fluid gets into baby is not a bad idea at all. And it would save the labor of creating a slit. Also, more adjustability of the foot flap might help minimize the gap-osis there.

  16. Maureen Salazar says:

    I work on infant products and one cost reduction that jumps out at me is the construction of the windows. In similar situations, I would use binding around the inside of the window opening to finish the edge (no vinyl yet). Then separately finish the edge of the vinyl with binding. Finally, sew the window onto the window opening. The binding material can match the light blue binding on the warmer. It’s not going to win any design awards, but it saves labor costs. A good back-pocket idea if cost reduction becomes critical.

  17. Wyncia says:

    Great suggestions here! Please, why the chest window? Whet is the plastiv lookinng thing? Window? near the baby’s feet?

  18. Noora says:

    Hi everyone,
    I like the idea.
    I held my breath when hoping that the feet area was more narrow than the rest of the warmer: It was. The arms are secure, but if the legs could kick, it would be a little scary. I’m glad it’s not.
    What struck me, however, was the choice of colors. The practicality is great, but I still think people want colors, and even patterns, that spark an “Awww, so cute!”
    As a minimum, to keep costs low, I would make the yellow interior match with a light blue also. Although locating light blue velcro may not be feasible, perhaps the fabric could be extended over them.
    Of course the velcro needs to be on the outside to secure the baby, although I’d prefer it not to be so visible. In my imagination there are some little cutie items like bubbles, flowers, clouds (cartoon-like figures) stitched over the velcro and along the edges of the plastic windows. But I know that’s probably taking it far.
    I would just say to provide more colors and have the inside and outter velcro a pastel color as well.
    All the best.

  19. Sarah Sky says:

    questions and suggestions:
    1: why is the back part where you place the heated wax bigger than the baby holder part? Is that you adjust for how big these newborns get? How long are you supposed to keep your baby in this thing?

    2: The side lining on the hood, it seems like it could be tacked but also redesigned. we lose a lot of heat through our heads and ears. Maybe its a safety versus amount of heat loss question.

    3: The way that this thing closes seems to leave open the two corners. Feet are also important for warmth. I know this is extra and not cutting coats, but what about a sort of feet pocket that goes across the bottom?

    4: I know this was brought up, but is the height adjustable. It seems like it could be made more easily adjustable if the velcro just ran the other way, vertical instead of horizontal allowing the bottom to be pulled up tighter, or looser if necessary.

    5: I don’t understand everyone’s problem with the plastic, plastic is pretty insulating. And its probably better to be able to check on everything than to have to open the whole thing up.

  20. Matthew Pius says:

    People are still making comments about “cute” embellishments and color choices. Aside from being tangential to Kathleen’s posed questions in the framework of “Refine My Line”, this is not germane to this product. This is not a product designed to appeal to mommies’ sense of cuteness. It isn’t an accessory or home decorator product. This is a medical device.

    From the manufacurer’s website: “It is a new, low cost solution to help keep low birth weight babies’ body temperature warm so they can survive and thrive in developing countries.”

    The product needs to be suited to the intended customer.

  21. Kathleen says:

    Sorry about being slower on the uptake Matthew. I wasn’t paying attention to those because (as you said) they had nothing to do with the product and I knew the project manager was going to ignore those too.

    All: A refresher on the Refine My Line series is that style commentary is strictly verbotten unless the designer requests it and guess what, none of them have.

    When we are critiquing our usual participant (an individual designer), I will remove style related comments quickly. The function of Refine My Line is to improve functionality, features and cost. In the industry, it is considered rude to make unsolicited style suggestions during a product review. Do it more than once and it will get you fired.

  22. JDT Estes says:

    I imagine that the clear windows are to allow visual checks on respiration rates and/or to confirm that the wrap is not too tight across the chest. If that’s so, you could/should have just one window in the outer layer with a simple hole in the inner layer, or modify the shape of the inner layer so that it doesn’t overlap the portion with the outer window. My guess is that as the vinyl or whatever in the window ages, it will get cloudy or otherwise grungy and two layers of this material will be harder to see through. If visibility is the issue, you could have a flap that opens toward the feet (so it can’t flip up over the face) over a simple hole without the vinyl.

    About the color: there’s a functional reason to pick some colors over others, especially if these are to be used for newborns in places with minimal technology. Before the days of continuous oxygen saturation monitors, the adequacy of ventilation was judged by how pink the patient looked. In med school I rotated through a hospital with a brand-new ICU that had been painted a soothing blue-gray color all the way up the walls to the skylights; the resulting bluish light in all the rooms made everyone, patients and visitors, look like they’d been dead for a week. It was a patient care issue because you couldn’t tell if someone was cyanotic, so the whole ICU had to be repainted. So- while the yellow-orange of the lining may be OK, I’d shy away from colors in the outer wrap that could interfere with visual cues to the patient’s health – so IMO blue and red aren’t good, for opposite reasons. White, while tougher to keep looking nice, doesn’t mask changes in patient skin color. Light tan would also work.

    The velcro straps could probably be done away with altogether by extending the overlapping flap with a broad piece of flannel or stretchy knit material that just gets tucked snugly under the whole warmer, wax pack and all. The weight of the packet plus baby and the friction of the material should be enough to keep it in place, with no bits of Velcro or plastic buckles to break.

    Finally, the foot flap can be a thinner material that is secured horizontally across the full width of the pad at about the level of the baby’s knees and extends well beyond the foot end of the pad. In use, the baby is put down on the pad, the foot flap is folded up over the feet and lower legs, then the two side flaps are put in place. This accommodates babies of different sizes and keeps them from slipping down so easily. It also lets wires and IVs still come out the bottom of the pad and it does a pretty good job of closing off air leaks there.

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