In the journey from pregnancy to the birth of my first child, there were so many changes. Physically my body was changing and shifting and accommodating the human growing inside me. Mentally I was beginning to understand what people meant when they warn you that, “becoming a mother changes you.”
I was no longer just “Sarah,” but a mother, responsible for another human life. My every decision suddenly had an impact on someone else. Even the simplest decision, like “should I have another donut and a cup of coffee?” now had significant meaning. I realized that the baby boy I was nurturing was going to depend on me to make all decisions to keep him safe. Like most first-time expectant parents, I read all the baby care books and even took a prenatal class so that I would know exactly how to take care of a baby. What I was not prepared for was the enormous amount of advice coming from everyone around me. You can’t escape it – from the grocery store to your next-door neighbor, everyone suddenly becomes a parenting expert and they are excited to guide you along your journey of pregnancy, by telling you stories about their experiences and their lessons learned. It brings a wonderful, warm sense of community, but coupled with pregnancy well-visits and medical information, as well as all the new parent resources available online – it very quickly became overwhelming.
But so many people have babies – how hard can it be? Is it really as difficult as it seems? It got me thinking about the distinction between art and science – where does parenting fit in? Is being a good parent based more in science or in art? Science is seen as the objective corner, based on a system of acquiring knowledge where art is seen as more subjective, expressions of knowledge. There are decisions that you make when you are pregnant based solely on science, like taking prenatal vitamins and using scans to check the health of your pregnancy. But then there are other choices you make, like figuring out how to climb out of a comfy chair with a giant pregnancy belly, that feels much more like an art. I realized that the reality is that the best solutions arise when science and art go hand-in-hand – for example using mother’s instinct coupled with scientific guidance.
Somewhere around the 6-month mark of my pregnancy, I shifted gears from learning all about pregnancy and reading baby-care books, to actually preparing for the upcoming arrival. I packed a hospital bag with all the things I would need for delivery, and started making a list of the things I needed to get our home ready for a new baby. As all parents know, there are an overwhelming amount of options when you start registry shopping. So many in fact, that our first trip to the baby registry store was an absolute disaster and ended with Oliver needing to lie down. Those stores are huge! How is it possible that something so small could need so many things? I know now, that the size of a Buy Buy Baby store is actually between 28,000 – 60,000 square feet and offers an average of 20,000 products per store to choose from. No wonder Oliver and I felt overwhelmed with options!
I knew from many sources that babies spend a total of 16 hours a day sleeping and so making sure that I could create a safe sleep space was super important. I was also pretty sure that I too, would also need to sleep, as well as eat and shower so I wanted to know that my baby would be safe while I had to briefly undertake other tasks, or even attempt to relax!
I realized I had so many new and confusing feelings and needs! This gave me flashbacks to learning about Maslow’s hierarchy of needs in business school, many years ago. I found it was an insightful and meaningful way of explaining my feelings and understanding my needs – maybe you will too. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is basically a psychological theory which shows how various needs and feelings are related. It describes how meeting various needs leads to self-actualization, or the place we all want to be as parents, where we feel like we’re the best we can be. I found it interesting that my daily triage of needs really did follow this framework. It certainly began with basic needs like creating a nest; a safe environment to raise a family. However, I always felt like I struggled with knowing if I’d met all of those physiological needs – was my son really comfortable all the time? Had I dressed him right for sleep? Was he too hot or too cold? Had I really created the most nurturing environment that I could? How would I know if I had? Was the temperature ‘right’ and would it stay ‘right’? Was I really creating the safest sleep environment I could? It dawned on me that some basic needs were not being met to allow me to progress to the state I really wanted – true family well-being.
In my search for a solution to meeting various basic needs, all I could find were products that would alarm me when something had gone wrong. I bought them because I felt like I had to – they approached the answers I wanted, but never really delivered. For example, I was constantly glued to my monitor looking for signs of discomfort and temperature changes etc. It’s not a bad thing as a parent to be attentive and in-tune with what’s going on, but I felt hostage to the situation – constantly waiting for alarms to go off. I wished that there was another way, but couldn’t find one, so I decided to effect change myself. Parenting is an incredible journey with so many magical moments every day, but there are so many moments of self-doubt. I decided to build a company that dedicated itself to ensuring parents are equipped with all they need to keep their babies safe and to enjoy every second parenting has to offer – removing the burden of doubt and ambiguity whenever possible. I wanted parents to achieve the true state of fulfilment where their energy is spent on other critical parenting activities and not wasted on other things they aren’t empowered to control.
But was it just me? I set off on a journey of customer discovery. Customer discovery involves a process closely following a scientific method of observing a problem, developing a hypothesis about a potential solution to the problem and conducting experiments to test your theory. This makes sure you don’t waste time on ideas that are biased and not based on truly painful, real-world problems. Everyone can relate to not having enough waking hours – the process behind customer discovery ensures that you don’t waste time on the wrong solution. This data driven approach meant I embarked on a mission of talking with hundreds of parents, doctors, nurses, doulas, etc. and realized that this was a truly prolific unmet and painful need. I created a vision of a company that could help parents effect true family well-being and I decided to dedicate my life to that worthy cause. Innogized Technologies was born; a company dedicated to providing parents assurance through science.
During prenatal class, like many other expectant moms, I learned about Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.
“Sudden unexpected infant death (SUID), also known as sudden unexpected death in infancy, or SUDI, is a term used to describe any sudden and unexpected death, whether explained or unexplained (including sudden infant death syndrome [SIDS] and ill-defined deaths), occurring during infancy.”— Moon, 2016
There are many aspects of SIDS that can be influenced by a parent, like not drinking alcohol or smoking during pregnancy, but there are other aspects that are more difficult to control. In our baby class they focused on the “exogenous stressors” which means a factor coming from outside the body. I learned that many factors are within my control to keep my baby safe such as:
- Placing baby on their belly for sleep time
- Not bed sharing (but room sharing is good – i.e. having baby’s crib in your room but not sharing a sleep space)
- Not using soft bedding
- And making sure that baby’s face does not get covered
They also taught us to avoid the risk of overheating by not over bundling – this risk of overheating was the only area where there were no clear-cut instructions for avoidance. This was the call to action that gave birth to a new discovery. If the hazard of over-bundling could be reduced, we parents would be empowered to influence all additional external stressors for SIDS, and would truly be empowered to do everything within our powers to mitigate risk.
Before embarking on expensive R&D activities, I studied methods of hazard reduction and came across the CDC Hierarchy of Controls (CDC, 2015). This model really spoke to me and it became apparent that the most effective way to control a hazard is to eliminate it, upstream. In contrast, the least effective is to simply alarm when its already happened. Studying the hierarchy of needs and interpreting it for the needs of parents, it became clear that the problem I was seeing in all the products available to me was that the least effective methods (alarming methods) were prevalent. For example, baby monitors only alarm when room temperature limits are exceeded, but in reality that’s not very helpful. The room temperature itself is really only an associated variable. According to the CDC model it’s not very effective either. I wondered, why was that? Could there be a better way? I looked further and found some baby monitors that physically measure the baby’s temperature and alarm when limits are exceeded. While those are probably an improvement because at least they actually measure the baby, and not the room, they still only alarm me when I’ve overheated my baby! If the hazard has already occurred then that is far from OK! Again, I couldn’t help but to think – there has to be a better way. Designing out the hazard upstream seemed to be the answer, so I went back to customer discovery, asking many parents, doctors, nurses and doulas to check that working on a proactive solution was truly worthwhile – the resounding answer was YES!
We set off on a journey to develop the first truly proactive tool that empowers parents to create and maintain safe sleep environments anytime and anywhere. By creating a product designed by parents, for parents, we truly enable parents to meet critical needs to enable their journey to self-actualization and help them to be their best parent.
Maslow (1943), A theory of human motivation, Psychological Review 50(4), 370-396
Moon (2016), SIDS and Other Sleep-Related Infant Deaths: Updates 2016 Recommendations for a Safe Infant Sleeping Environment 208-211 Available at: https://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/138/5/e20162938
Filiano (1994), A perspective on Neuropathologic Findings in Victims of the Sudden Infant Death Syndrome: The Triple-Risk Model, Biol Neonate 65: 194-197
CDC (2015) Hierarchy of Controls, NIOSH, Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/hierarchy/default.html