This blog will address the research, prototyping and design development of the ergonomic mattress elements to the ‘Snuggle’, a baby sensory environment.
One of the major sensory differences between being in a cot and being in the womb for a new-born is the lack of feeling enclosed, surrounded and supported. Being tightly swaddled and cuddled closely by a mother is currently the closest replication to the womb environment. There are some products available on the market today that address specific areas of this problem, however, the ‘Snuggle’ mattress intends to address multiple problems within a single product.
One of the key adjustments new-born babies have to make is this loss of closeness-problems of feeling lost in the empty space of a cot; this can be evidenced with premature babies who literally reach out trying to find the womb edge, “You will see these little preemies trying to bring their hands together or bring their hands to their face, or lay them over their head and their ear,” says Dr Als. “They search, literally, with their feet to try to find a boundary.”(Cornell 2016)
There is further evidence to show babies sleep much better when swaddled and wrapped tightly “The American Academy of Paediatrics (AAP) says that when done correctly, swaddling can be an effective technique to help calm infants and promote sleep." (Pediatrics, 2015)
Some key products that provide a solution to this problem, are; the Swaddle UP "Unlike traditional swaddles, the unique arms UP design of our Swaddle UP™ replicates your baby's behaviour in the womb, allowing movement of their hands to self-soothe." (Sarah, 2016) . Also, the ‘The Cocoonababy Nest® designed by Dr Danielle Salducci, as “mattresses which would enable newborns to make movements similar to those made inside their mother’s womb." (Cocoonababy, 2016). Another product key to my initial research was the ‘Babymoov cosy dream’ this product supports the baby’s legs, raising them slightly to help with the feeling of being curled up and a return to the foetal position. Finally "The Cosydream provides a smaller and more snuggle space that reassure baby for better sleep." (Cosydream, 2014)
Another inspiring product I found during my research is ‘Dexbaby safe lift crib wedge’ which is placed under the baby to help relieve symptoms such as colic or acid reflux. This, and similar products, range from having a 12°-30° incline to help soothe a fractious baby "try raising the top of the cot to a 30° angle so he is not lying flat to see if this helps." (Ltd, 2016)
The Lexikind baby pillow can be used to prevent deformation of the back of the head. “Positional plagiocephaly occurs when a baby's head develops a flat spot due to pressure on that area. Babies are vulnerable because their skull is soft and pliable when they're born.” (Persing et al., 2003)
Finally there is the feature of a slight raise in the mattress under their arms; this is because new born babies apparently cannot self-sooth when laid flat on their back “as they do not have the strength to move their arms upwards” (Cocoonababy, 2016) and so by raising the mattress in this area, under the babies arms, self-soothing can take place.
This wide ranging research has inspired the ergonomic shaping and design of the ‘Snuggle’ mattress. The blog will now move on to discuss the design development - prototyping stage and other influences on the design.
In previous blogs ‘foam supplier’ & ‘textile cover’ my discussion revolved around the material qualities and limitations which have been pivotal in informing the design of the ‘Snuggle’ mattress. A large part of the design journey has been the ergonomic dimensions needed for a product for a new-born baby and the key design considerations in response to these dimensions (See ‘ergonomics for a new born’ blog for further detail). The dimensions of the baby’s head informed design decisions for the distance required from the centre of the head to the surrounding foam – if the head was to roll left or right there must be enough space to ensure the baby could not smother themselves. (Woods, C, 2016) These dimensions and ergonomic considerations also informed the measurements of depth and circumference for the ‘dip’ for the baby’s head as you can see from the images below.
Alongside the research into ergonomics affecting products for babies, I conducted a SWOT analysis of existing products currently available on the market, paying particular interest in the dimensions of each product, and keen to see the stated age range they catered for in their product.
This research lead to an understanding of a preferred dimensional size for my mattress and ‘Snuggle’ will fit in line with products aimed at 0 to 8 months old , the dimensions I have chosen are 700 mm tall and 400 mm wide.
My initial cardboard model used these dimensions as a starting point and I instinctively gave the mattress an egg/womb-like, nest curvature shape. I removed some layers of cardboard to create a dip/recess for the head, adding a wedge of cardboard beneath the platform base to elevate this head end. By making a physical representation of the size and dimensions of ‘Snuggle’ I was able to have a clearer understanding of the proportions of the design in a model form. I added handles, further research would be needed for the materials/size/weight bearing capacity of these, began to carry it around the house and start playing with textile components to create the examples of the mould forms that would eventually make up the mattress accessories.
I had a basic model from which to develop and at this point in the project, smell, light and sound were the key sensory replications I needed to be concerned with introducing next so they could be added on and it could become a ‘modular piece’. The mattress would be the starter piece, with these sensory additional extras available in the surrounding top pieces; The ‘head cradle’ housing the speaker/s and the ‘leg-raise’ housing the lights/movement.
I started to approach the modularity of the piece with a more ‘sense-driven’ breakdown, having elements for touch, another for sight, sound, smell and movement. As all of these research elements came together the foam mattress started to become more of an ergonomically formed pod. Key parts of the research (as stated above) were informing not only the surrounding foam shapes, the leg raise and head recess, but were giving credence to the design philosophy I was generating; of ‘Snuggle’ becoming an ergonomic piece to aid transition from the womb for new-born babies.
At this point in my design journey, I was able to investigate the opportunities of each aspect of the design, potentially resolving more than one key sensory area at a time.
As you can see from the graphic below I started with 10 issues/sensory areas and have reduced them down to 5 components or product add on’s.
During this time I was able to get direct feedback and potential customer research; I spent the day with 2 new mums who were able to share their invaluable opinions about my product concept and give me a relevant outsider’s point of view. To hear more about these please go to the blog “meeting 2 new mums; Kate and Jacquie”.
My design was becoming more of a reality and my next step was to source some foam to actually create the mattress, and the foam I chose is a 2” RX 39/120 roughly 70mm x 40mm(more information about this in the ‘foam supplier’ blog).
A key consideration whilst cutting and forming the foam was the height of the foam surround – an interesting, and I consider, a vital part of the midwife’s endorsements (see midwife meeting blog).
I also altered the overall shape of the mattress at this point to fit in with the archetypal pram form and dimensions.
While my main concern was with the ergonomics of the product for the baby’s head and corresponding safety considerations, I was also acutely aware that the foam surround needed to house the Bluetooth speaker and this proved to be a challenge to both practicality and aesthetic qualities; equally important aspects of my design.
Having created a foam form that was ergonomically correct for a newborn baby from 0 to 8 months old, I moved on to consider the mattress cover, as you can see from the images below this multifaceted foam form proved initially quite difficult to cover with a single piece of fabric. (The blog ‘textile cover’ has details about the technical and textile advice I was given by a fashion contour expert- Katie).
In line with Katie’s advice I acquired a two-way stretch fabric and set about covering my mattress form. This was by no means an easy process and despite Katie’s assurance that the two-way stretch fabric would result in no creases this is something I’m struggling to achieve.
After consulting with Dave Heaton and Dave Grimshaw they both advised me to cover the foam mattress in two separate pieces. As discussed in the ‘textile cover’ blog there are companies and processes that will create a perfectly fitted cover through heat setting the fabric and this can be seen in the moulded cups Katie found during our visit to John Lewis.
Katie was also able to advise about the degree of curvature and tightness of angles a heat sets fabric would be able to achieve. Whilst continually referencing the ergonomic drawings to ensure it kept within the requirements, Katie supported me in creating a final foam mattress that has a form achievable and coverable with the heat set industry process. At this point the mattress shape reverted back to the womb/nest like oval: this was informed by the hood design and allows for the 180° opening of the hood.
At this stage in my design process, I was rapidly approaching final hand in, and I made a visit to Katie the contouring expert (who also just happens to be my sister!). Not only was Katie able to advise and suggest improvements, but she was also able to teach me vital garment construction skills. I initially tackled the foam mattress and then, looking at the form within the hood, I concluded the back edge needed to be significantly more angled.
During this section, consideration was taken as to where the speaker/speakers would be located, and, after a few trials where I placed the speaker within the foam at various points, it was concluded that a single speaker placed internally in the back of the ‘Head cradle’ would allow for a ‘surround sound’ acoustic, in contrast to the original design where there would be two speakers either side of the baby’s head. By reducing this component to a single speaker the overall component cost has also been reduced.
During the visit with Katie we visited a range of mother and baby stores exploring existing available products, whilst also investigating, touching and feeling the fabrics in use on these items. Katie explained the appropriateness of each fabric and the processes used on each product, reinforcing the valuable lessons learnt from ‘comp. shop’ research.
Having purchased and trialled relevant fabrics (for more detail see the ‘aesthetic look’ blog) the foam surround ‘Head Cradle’ is now starting to look more professional. Final considerations now need to be around how to attach ‘the swaddle’ element and making the mattress cover removable for washing – a key feature for mums.
After exploring the available options I concluded that attaching ‘the swaddle’ directly to the under sheet would be best and easiest for the mum. (It is intended that the mattress will come with two cover/swaddles enabling one to be washed while the other is being used).
Please see blog ‘swaddle Design’ for more design detail.
The final ergonomic ‘Snuggle’ mattress looks professional and will be easy to produce in bulk through industrial processes. In addition to these factors, for me this is a fantastic end point!
The journey I have taken to get to this point has been interesting and exciting! Packed with learning; new technical skills, design developments and inevitable compromises with a deeper material appreciation, as well as satisfaction at a version of a final product completed.
Despite not being able to include all the sensory features that I investigated, I believe the basic ergonomic design of ‘Snuggle’ mattress could be a success. It has been mainly research lead; each feature being informed by a current medical challenge for new-borns, and with my research into existing products only reinforcing my belief that there is indeed a need for this product in the market place.
Future work would involve a development of the extra sensory products (or add on’s), as the market demand dictates.
Cocoonababy (2016) FAQ. Available at: https://www.cocoonababy.com.au/pages/faq (Accessed: 4 September 2016).
Cosydream (2014) Available at: http://www.babymoov.co.uk/baby-head-rest-sleep-positioners-/48-cosydream-3661276143050.html (Accessed: 5 September 2016).
Ltd, N. (2016) Baby reflux wedge supports? Available at: http://www.netmums.com/coffeehouse/baby-794/drop-clinic-652/775867-baby-reflux-wedge-supports-all.html (Accessed: 4 September 2016).
Persing, J., James, H., Swanson, J. and Kattwinkel, J. (2003) ‘Prevention and management of positional skull deformities in infants’, AMERICAN ACADEMY OF PEDIATRICS, 112(1), pp. 199–202.
Pediatrics, A.A. of (2015) Swaddling: Is it safe? Available at: https://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/baby/diapers-clothing/Pages/Swaddling-Is-it-Safe.aspx (Accessed: 5 September 2016).
Sarah, S. (2016) Make sleep simple. Available at: https://lovetodream.com.au/ (Accessed: 5 September 2016).
Woods, C. (2016) ‘Professional advice from a Midwife’. Interview with .