An innovative feeding cup for newborns and premature babies could save millions of lives around the world by providing them with breastmilk.
CAN a Nobel Prize be awarded for a reusable cup to feed breast milk to newborn and premature babies who are having trouble with breast-feeding?
Why not? Such venerated recognition would be wholly appropriate.
The transformative invention is the result of a collaboration of Seattle talent and a nonprofit Norwegian-based firm that specializes in global-health technologies.
Literally millions of infants stand a chance not only of having better lives, but of sustaining life at all. Gratitude for helping struggling newborns and their exhausted, terrified mothers has no geographic or political boundaries.
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The design of the NIFTY cup, for Neonatal Intuitive Feeding Technology, allows mothers to express breast milk into the 40-milliliter container, and a spout enables newborns to control the rate at which they take in the milk.
Special design elements are key for newborns with cleft palates, which complicate suction and feeding, and for premature babies without the strength and innate skills to breathe, feed and swallow at the same time.
The cup, which can be effectively cleaned, is also designed to prevent spills. Tiny amounts of lost, precious nutrition add up, with potentially lethal consequences for wee, vulnerable diners.
Credit an astute melding of professional knowledge, talents and observations on the ground in Africa with helping to produce the NIFTY cup.
Three key contributors include Dr. Michael Cunningham, director of the Craniofacial Center at Seattle Children’s Hospital, Dr. Christy McKinney, an epidemiologist on the faculty of the Department of Oral Health Science in the University of Washington’s School of Dentistry, and Patricia Coffey, an expert in neonatal health technologies at Seattle-based PATH, a nonprofit global-health organization.
McKinney also acknowledges the insights of Robin Glass, an occupational therapist and lactation consultant at Seattle Children’s.
PATH and Laerdal Global Health have teamed together on other projects. Tore Lærdal explains the $1 NIFTY cup will be bundled with four other care products and two programs to promote breast-feeding. The items will reach mothers through birthing institutions in Africa.
A validation study in a hospital is planned for a country in sub-Saharan Africa by the end of 2016. It will monitor design, spillage and weight gain. NIFTY cups have been successfully used in India.
In the United States and elsewhere, breast-feeding has complications, but clean bottles and nasogastric feeding options are available without the access and hygiene issues of poor countries.
The NIFTY cup is a life-sustaining invention for vulnerable newborns and desperate mothers that is the product of professional skills and experience, and deep care and concern.
The British medical journal Lancet recently detailed the lifesaving and life-enhancing virtues of breast-feeding. This basic form of nutrition has a NIFTY new ally.
Nobel Prize-worthy indeed. An innovation with a global reach and warm embrace.