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enable bonding between
premature neonates and parents


each year

15 million babies

are born preterm all around the world and this number is rising

Left alone, separated from parents


Left in an unnatural environment
with noisy medical devices


Deprived of touch and bonding due to medical conditions and environment


Born with a natural lack of development preterm born children are often separated from their parents and left alone in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, surrounded by the tone of pipes and beeping medical devices. 

Deprived of one of the most crucial senses - touch, they can't experience bonding and building relations with their parents as their healthy peers. 

As much research shows, that touch has a profound effect on the development of a central nervous system, enhancing the parent-infant bond and it is crucial for the general well-being of the newborn.

How can we enhance bonding in the NICU?

Kotwica 2

The process












At the very beginning of my master thesis I was struggling what problem should I choose, as the one to solve withing next few months. Therefore I decided to do it my own special way. I always liked to talk about emotions in design. Therefore, without any idea how it will end up I started digging about what emotions are, how are they connected with senses and what is their value in people's life. After some time I found that touch is one of the very important aspects of person-to-person communication and the first sense to develop in the womb.


How to send them?

Why are they important?

What are they?

How they work? 

How we use them?

When we use them?



What are the challanges?


When it is difficult to bond?

What makes it so special?

Is it possible to bond on a distance?

Almost each 5th couple break up in 12 months after birth.

What is the main problem at the NICU?

Why having a preterm child is so difficult for both: parents and an infant?
Why bonding at the NICU is so hard?

babies are immediately
taken out from parents,
locked in the incubator

babies are separated from their parents.  Caregivers are only tertiary users, there is no place for them.

they are deprived of touch and physical contact, contact limited with time and space

left alone, without a real chance to experience skin-to-skin bonding

fighting on their own

Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU)

Current situation


medical stuff

secondary user


beneficiary / primary user


teritary user

How to find a balance between users?

Imagine the NICU, where parents have no limitation to bond with their infant

and they can extend bonding even outside the hospital.


medical stuff




lack of bonding

is one of the main problems
at the Neonatal Intensive Care Units


Gentle touch has an enormous effect on infants.

Touch, heartbeat sound, the temperature of caregiver and closeness, skin-to-skin contact has a profound effect on the preterm born development. It helps the baby to get better faster and increases the survival rate.

when parents can’t stay in the NICU.

The majority of the parents have a problem staying close to the incubator at the NICU. Mother’s are often assignet to another hospital unit and their mobility is limited. During COVID-19 most of the NICU’s were closed for any visitors, including parents.

Why is physical contact so crucial?

Why should we promote bonding in the NICU?

How can it help premature born infants?

enriches and develops social interactions

 has a magnificent impact on emotional, social and cognitive development

Carissa J. Cascio, David Moore, Francis McGlone, Social touch and human development, Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience

affect our mood

and behaviour

Gallace, Alberto. “Living with Touch.” Living with touch, The Psychologist, December 2012.

daily tactile and kinesthetic stimulation may increase weight gain on average 47% per day

have several positive outcomes for infants physical and psychological development, reduces stress, helps to recover

Premature babies’ brains respond differently to gentle touching
Geddes L.

„Loving touch critical for premature infants.”
Elsevier ScienceDaily, 2014

is important for parents and they strongly miss and need it

My interviews with about 100 parents show that bonding at the NICU is extremely hard. Even if it is promoted by the hospital, it’s limited with time and space. Often there is no support from medical staff.

Preterm babies are deprived of  skin-to-skin contact

Preterm babies are often deprived of precious skin-to-skin contact with parents, which affects their health and development. 

Kotwica 1 helps premature infants regain the sensory-rich experience of bonding with their parents in situations where this is not possible.



Could you imagine not being able to touch, hug or even hold a hand with your newborn child? 
Each year 15 million babies are born preterm around the World and need to be immediately assigned to the NICU. Separated, left alone in the incubator, they are fighting for life. Often alone, deprived of touch or rich skin-to-skin presence of their parents, due to their medical conditions, hospital policy, pandemic or mothers assigned to another hospital. 
Why not give them a chance to regain bonding?

Concept is a set of two wirelessly connected devices: a portable parent device and the baby mattress inside the incubator, on which the infant lies in the NICU.
Each of the devices consists of a set of sensors enabling sensing, collecting and sending data to the other one, such as touch, breast movement and vibration, heartbeat, body heat or smell and electronics enabling receiving and replaying such data from another one.

Thanks to such a solution, both: parents and their premature infant can experience indirect touch and rich, full-sense bonding of the other, even in the situations where it would not be possible.



Currently, there is no other option to bond with preterm born than direct touch via portholes or kangaroo care. However, those can only apply if the child’s conditions allow and parents are close to the incubator. No solution, enables a mother lying in another hospital unit to bond with her own child. Nor when parents can’t stay at NICU, nor when they are present, but direct contact with the baby is not allowed. Concepts for indirect bonding are only one way and limited only to heartbeat sounds or mother’s breast movement. They skip the most natural and important part of bonding. is the only one, which allows two-way communication, so both: parents and the baby can feel one another. Its uniqueness lies in involving almost all senses in the process of indirect bonding and enriches bonding with additional values such as vibration or temperature.

Exchange haptic
& audio data

Parent device

Mattress for infant

Parent device

This device helps parents to bond with the child. The shape and size are abstract but was inspired by the measurements of 28 pw infant.

Through the device parents can feel their baby’s breast movement, temperature or hear the heartbeat. At the same time, their data are collected and sent to the mattress in the incubator, so the child can experience their presence on distance.

Mattress for infant

The mattress is an interactive part of the incubator. It captures data from the infant and sends them to the parent device, while at the same time receiving and stimulating data from parent, so the baby can feel them.

The mattress functions as a “bridge“ between normal and womb environment. Elastic, silicon material gives an infant a huge range of movements and a feeling of floating.


From hospital bed


From home

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