Scientists have developed a smart baby pillow that can prevent and even correct mild cases of flat head syndrome, caused when infants repeatedly lie on their backs to sleep. Babies are born with highly malleable skulls, and therefore receiving constant pressure on a particular part of their head may lead to some positional flattening or molding of the head. Although this does not harm brain development nor cause any lasting appearance problems, simple practices, like placing them in different positions over the course of each day, can easily prevent a baby from developing an asymmetrical skull shape.
“We came up with the idea to help new parents who are in drastic need of sleep. We wanted to help them relax and rest at least when their babies are asleep,” said scientists from Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology (UNIST) in South Korea, who developed the device. The smart baby pillow is designed to help induce the correct sleeping posture, thereby preventing babies from developing flat head syndrome. It features an embedded air volume control system, as well as the image-based soft tactile sensor. “A soft tactile sensor has been applied to monitor the position of a newborn’s head in real time,” said Tae Hun Chung from UNIST. “We have also added a system that automatically controls the volume of air in the pillow for a perfectly symmetrical skull. This saves the trouble of attempting to change a newborn’s head in different positions every 1 to 2 hours,” said Chung. The team plans to commercialize the product and later expand into the medical device market. The device itself would certainly be a great help for those stressed-out parents,” said HyeWon Cho from UNIST. “By allowing mothers to have some relaxation time, it can also help prevent or treat symtoms of postnatal depression and anxiety,” Cho said.