Deedee Kommers promoted cum laude

The department of Industrial Design would like to congratulate Deedee Kommers on being promoted cum laude for her work on prematurity and the physiology of bonding. She was promoted on the 24th of January and the first promotor was Sidarto Bambang Oetomo. 

Prematurity and the physiology of bonding - a scientific perspective on love

A woman is gently wheeled into a dimly lit intensive care unit. She looks at her tiny baby for the first time. He is lying in an incubator, looking fragile and vulnerable, but most of all he looks lonely.

Worldwide, one in every ten babies is born prematurely (< 37 weeks of gestation). These babies are exposed to many unnatural environmental stimuli as a result of a disturbance of the mother-infant symbiosis, and this has a significant and lasting effect on development. Therefore, it seems that improving the mother-infant symbiosis after preterm birth could lead to a reduction in the global burden of disease. However, in order to be able to enhance mother-infant symbiosis, its physiology needed to be understood first, for which we studied the universal principle of mammalian bonding according to biologists and neuroscientists.

Bonding is the process of co-regulation: when organisms assist each other in regulating their internal environment. In a NICU environment, parent-infant co-regulation is maximal during skin-to-skin contact. By demonstrating changes in physiological parameters such as oxytocin and heart rate variability, i.e. by demonstrating changes in the internal environment of preterm infants during skin-to-skin care versus during time in the incubator (the control, or baseline situation), we were able to measure aspects of bonding. We demonstrated differences in preterm infant physiology compared to adult physiology and we evaluated newly developed devices aimed at mimicking aspects of parental co-regulation, such as Hugsy.

Parent-infant bonding had significantly improved in our NICU over the course of the project, as measured by the time spent in skin-to-skin contact; that time had doubled. The latter has significant implications, since skin-to-skin contact is known to reduce mortality and morbidity, to reduce parental stress and depression, and to improve long-term cognitive outcomes in preterm infants.