Finalist 2021


Claire Hausler of Merineo Pty Ltd / Knox Private Hospital staff / Mandi Buchanan - Maternity Ward Nurse Unit Manager

Merineo Newborn Swaddle Bag made from Australian superfine merino.

My entry is for a newborn swaddle bag which I designed and which is manufactured in Australia to help newborn babies settle better.

At the forefront of the design is the health and safety of the baby, with the product having been successfully hospital trialled.

Using Australian grown merino wool, a natural and sustainable fibre, the product material has been carefully selected to provide thermo-regulating, hypoallergenic and sleep benefits to baby, and to be of the finest quality to feel soft on baby’s delicate skin.

Design Brief

The problem is newborn babies often don't settle easily for sleep. If baby is unsettled, she expends energy crying rather than resting, and doesn’t put on weight as rapidly as she should, affecting her development. Further, the carer becomes sleep deprived and at risk of postnatal depression.

I discussed the problem with hospital midwives, who felt that existing sleep products did not keep baby snug like in the womb, and that sleep products did not keep baby comfortable and cosy because the fabric was either synthetic causing clamminess or made from a fabric lacking thermo-regulating benefits.

The intended outcome was the creation of a safe sleep product acknowledged by a maternity hospital, to help newborn babies settle better, using a natural and sustainable low fire risk fabric with thermo-regulating and hypoallergenic benefits, that was machine washable for the convenience of busy parents, and made ethically in Australia.

This project was developed by:

  • Claire Hausler of Merineo Pty Ltd
  • Knox Private Hospital staff
  • Mandi Buchanan - Maternity Ward Nurse Unit Manager

Design Process

The first step (taken in January 2016) was to research the use of pure merino wool to ensure it was safe to use on babies, and the Australian Standards in relation to the product design and fabric flammability to ensure product compliance. Research from Australian Wool Innovation was analysed to support the safety of the fibre.

Step 2 was to source pure merino wool fibre in a double interlock construction that was machine washable, meaning the fabric needed to be robust to withstand using as a baby sleep product and washed regularly to remove baby excrement. Fabric samples were sourced from the world’s most reputable woollen mills and tested with the help of a retired managing director of an Australian textile company.

Step 3 was to develop a pattern to fit a newborn baby. This involved discussions with hospital midwives and using a professional pattern maker and sewing team to create prototypes. These were tried on newborn babies.

After designing and manufacturing the final prototype, step 4 was to collaborate with a hospital to conduct a trial. An arrangement was reached with a hospital and products were given to parents of newborns during their hospital stay to take home and to try and provide feedback.

Step 5 was to assess the feedback captured through parents completing surveys to improve the product and hopefully to enter into a supply arrangement with the hospital. The trial was a success with the majority of respondents reporting their newborn settled better in the product compared to other sleep products.

Step 6 was to go into bulk manufacture using makers in Australia, thereby establishing a supply chain and becoming a licensee of the “Made in Australia” logo.

Design Excellence

The user experience of the product has been factored into the final design through feedback provided by experienced hospital midwives and respondents of the hospital trial. Changes have been made to the product such as lengthening the zipper and using a two-way zipper to improve the user experience – instead of taking baby out of the swaddle bag to change the nappy during the night, the bottom half of the product can be opened to change the nappy to allow baby to stay asleep in the product.

The product is made for corporate clients including hospitals and obstetricians, wanting the product in their corporate colours with their logo embroidered onto the product.

The product is also made for retail clients in a variety of classic and contemporary colours, including boy, girl and gender neutral colours.

The product is made to suite a variety of climates (or nursery room temperatures) being made in different fabric weights and two different fabric constructions.

The fabrics have been independently tested as Category 1 (low flammability) under the Australian Standards relating to Childrens Nightwear (but note the product is not required to comply because it fall outside the Standards).

This product sets a benchmark as the first merino wool baby product in the world that has been successfully hospital trialled. It is also formally acknowledged as ‘hip-healthy’ by the International Hip Dysplasia Institute in the USA (there being no equivalent body in Australia to acknowledge the product).

Design Innovation

The project has been proven to help newborns settle better in a safe manner, and subsequently purchased by the hospital to gift to hundreds of newborns babies born there. This project is one of a kind in Australia, as there has been no other Australian designed or Australian made product trialled in an Australian hospital.

In responding to using wool on babies in different climates, a new style has been developed in a highly breathable ‘cool mesh’ fabric construction (made from 100% merino wool), with parents from hotter climates where the nights are cooler, giving favourable feedback. The product was also shown at a trade fair in Milan, Italy as being an innovative use of a cool mesh fabric.

The design of the product is unique, in that there no other newborn swaddle bags available on the global market (to my knowledge) using my design of a swaddle, or wings, sewn into a newborn shaped zip up bag.

Design Impact

The product has been shown to safely help newborns settle better, allowing baby to sleep and put on weight during those first critical days and weeks of life. If baby sleeps, then the parents are at lesser risk of sleep deprivation and postnatal depression.

In addition to having a positive impact on baby and parents, other clients such as hospitals and obstetricians are provided with a layer of comfort in providing the product to their newborns because of the successful hospital trial and maternity hospital supply arrangement.

The development of the product has also had a positive impact on the Australian farming community, who feel encouraged that their ethically grown fibre is being used to help babies sleep better. This is measured by the high level of articles published by rural media outlets celebrating the product.

The environmental impact of the product is low through using wool, a naturally grown and sustainable fibre. Rather than using polyester care labels and brand labels, the product uses cotton labels.

In making a Merineo Newborn Swaddle Bag, fabric offcuts are given to manufacturers to make padded sports equipment.

At the end of the product’s life, merino wool biodegrades within 6 months.

The project contributes to Victoria’s reputation as a design and creative culture, because in the marketing of the product, consumers from Australia and overseas learn (through the product description or supporting brochures) the brand is based in Victoria and the product was trialled and supplied to a maternity hospital in Victoria.

Circular Design and Sustainability Features

Merino wool is by nature a circular fibre. Starting with a sheep growing a fleece every year, the next process in turning the fleece into fabric. After use by the first consumer, merino wool products can be re-used and handed more readily down by virtue of the premium nature of the fabric. When left in the soil, merino wool biodegrades within 6 months, and when merino wool is washed, the fibres that come loose as part of the process and end up in the ocean also biodegrade quickly.

The merino fabrics used to make the Merineo Newborn Swaddle Bags are made from 100% merino wool. Further, in using local manufacturers in Australia, there is less impact on the globe because there is less freight required to ship finished garments from offshore to Australia. In using Australian makers, the product is made ethically.

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