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Safe Dreams

Reducing neonatal deaths in poorer communities across the world, via a multifunctional backpack turned sleeping unit that filters the air.

Photo of Amy Balam
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Safe Dreams targets pneumonia, hypothermia and malaria in newborns.  

Designed as a multifunctional and low tech solution to ensuring that newborns are protected within any environment. Targeting remote communities where there is little to no medical assistance and aiming to empower mothers to care for their newborns. 

The concept is a backpack that contains a clean birthing kit and newborn essentials such as reusable nappies. The backpack can be easily carried by any family member and has the option of carrying the baby on the back. The bag is placed down on the floor anywhere and turns into a bed. The bag is unzipped and has two layers. One is the outside bag material that rolls up at the end. The other is a combination of malaria/insect netting and non-woven material, this layer unzips and the newborn will be placed in the bed. The insect netting layer can then be zipped up and act as a protector layer blocking hazardous participles and air. An active carbon filter is added to the top of the bag to assist in filtering the air effectively. There is a thermal blanket on the inside of the bag also which will warm the newborn.

Safe Dreams aims to ensure a safe environment is given to a newborn whether in the home or out in the agriculture field. 

Explain your idea

Problem: Neonatal deaths from pneumonia, malaria and hypothermia Within disadvantaged and developing countries across the world medical assistance is dramatically lower in the remote communities. The individuals which suffer the most are newborns and pregnant women. Many pregnant women are giving birth with no skilled birth attendant, and newborns are born into unclean and hazardous environments. Safe Dreams looks at reducing this and providing a way of ensuring newborns can survive. Many babies are born as Low Weight Babies (LWB) as the mother is generally malnourished due to poverty and access to education and medicine. Because of this the baby is even more vulnerable, fighting extremely hard to stay alive. 2 million won't make it through their first day, 3 million within the first week and 3.3 million within the first week. Pneumonia is the number one killer of newborns, and in studying this closely a way of reducing pneumonia is by targeting the environmental factors in which the newborn is placed. Typically a home where these mortalities are higher included over-crowding, increased livestock, poorly ventilated homes and indoor cooking. A newborn struggles to breath in these environments and therefore moralities are higher. Safe Dreams was created through a close study on these environments and the end user along with field work experience in PNG and India. It is designed as a bag so that the unit is easily distributed, as many mothers or family members are walking long distances to reach home or work. The idea includes a clean birthing kit that provides communities access to clean tools and visual educational packs on how to deliver a baby safely. The bag filters the air and fights off insects. The thermal blanket promotes blood circulation that assists in developing a stronger immune system for the newborn. The concept allows the newborn to be placed in any environment whether that is outside or inside and creates a safe hub to maximise neonatal survival where education and medical assistance is extremely low.

Who Benefits?

Remote communities, newborns and mothers. Communities are given a chance to grow and be empowered to build stronger families. Newborns are sheltered from catching life-threatening diseases, and given an opportunity to survive their first year. Mothers are provided with clean birthing tools for their delivery, this reduces life threatening infections, protecting them from preventable complications. It also provides them with simple educational graphics explaining clean birth practices and empowers them to care for their newborn.

How is your idea unique?

Safe Dreams is low-tech compared to other solutions that require electricity. Other ideas targeting the maternal and newborn sector are aimed at improving rural or urban hospitals in poorer countries. This idea goes straight to the end user, the mother or family. It encourages community building and empowers the end user. Other organisations provide clean tools to women and clothing for newborns, targeting infection mainly. Safe Dreams targets three areas where mortality is preventable and high. I believe this idea will be more successful as it is multifunctional and designed for the home or workplace, making it practical for the mother to use anywhere. It also can be reused within the community or shared across families. It is reusable and doesn't require a large amount of training to operate.

Idea Proposal Stage

  • Prototyping: I have done some small tests or experiments with prospective users to continue developing my idea.

Tell us more about you

I am a graduate in Industrial Design where I majored in using innovation to alleviate poverty and global health problems. I am passionate about seeing a world where preventable deaths are reduced, and lives are saved. I created Safe Dreams whilst at university, and since graduating gained international experience in South America and Asia. I completed a three-month internship in India late last year, working with a social enterprise called ayzh. Throughout this time I visited extremely remote villages where I could see Safe Dreams is desperately needed. Since coming back home I have re-designed Safe Dreams based off the observations and interactions I had with pregnant women and newborns in these villages. Pregnant women and newborns deserve the right to life, and I saw how many of the factors to why they are dying is preventable through low-tech and simple interventions. I am currently working together with an Industrial Design Professor from the University of New South Wales to further conceptualise Safe Dreams. His role is mainly mentoring me and directing me in where to get next with the idea.

Expertise in sector

  • 1-2 years

Organization Filing Status

  • Other


Join the conversation:

Photo of Ashley Tillman

Amy Balam looks like your idea has some awesome traction! If you are looking for a design community to support, and you haven't done so definitely check out the Sydney OpenIDEO Chapter:


We implement projects on maternal and child health e project. could you pleaes share with me more about your idea.

Photo of Arianne Orillac

Hi Amy,
Great idea! I think it is very well thought out. You have done first hand human centered research and iterations of your prototype, which is great. I love that it has multiple uses and is low tech, therefore accessible to the people you are designing for. Good luck!

Photo of Marina Estrada Murcia

Hello Amy! I think it is really inspiring that you want to change the world with your knowledge. I would like to know more about the prototypes you have done, here is a tip: try to keep it as simple as possible and see if this product is actually wanted or NGO's would buy it. The idea is powerful so focus and do it!

Thank you for inspiring me, next year I'm spending 2 months in India and I would love to come up with an idea like yours.

Good luck!

Photo of Nicole De Paula

Hello Amy!
Interesting idea! Have you seen something similar before? I'd love to know more about your inspiration!
Good luck!

Photo of Lina ortega

Hi Amy
I think his idea is very good, as far as the benefits that his project brings to the communities that live in rural areas very distant and in conditions of extreme poverty, since in my country, Colombia also there are problems of infantile deaths by diverse factors Such as malnutrition, health and government performance in remote communities, but from my point of view as a student of design and as a natural person, it lacks a little more in the form and design of the suitcase, I mean, the main concepts Of your design are very clear, but it lacks more in its form

I think that as it is directed to these communities, it is not necessary that the suitcase is as simple as possible, the way of such of your suitcase can be a plus to increase the use of this, its form must represent something new and exclusive for these communities , You mentioned that it is of low technology because it does not require other inputs for its operation, but it should be better posed in its structure, more organic, that is reflected that it should be used for a baby, its rectangular shape is very simple and does not indicate in What position can be the baby or other forms can be transported that is not only in the back, that facilitates the comfort of both the baby and his mother and that represents much more security, I mean as to movements or possible falls

How to propose another way of carrying the suitcase, that the baby is not in a vertical position, but horizontal, the location of their belts, which adapts to suit the suitcases of temperature, which reflects that is not a suitcase common to Simple sight

Photo of Kate Rushton

Hi Amy!

Thank you for sharing Safe Dreams with us. What are the next steps for the project?

I just want to highlight the evaluation criteria for this challenge -