“Whatever you needed to do, you had to make up for yourself, because there weren’t products out there.”
As a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) nurse for more than 25 years, Sharon Rogone understood the needs of premature babies. Standard infant medical supplies were impractical for her tiny patients, so Rogone began inventing specifically for preemies. She started Small Beginnings in 1995 to create and market masks, diapers, pacifiers, and additional necessities that she and other nurses invented.
Rogone designed a mask that protected babies’ eyes from the harsh lights used to treat jaundice caused by high levels of bilirubin, a yellow-colored pigment in blood. The Bili-Bonnet was made of soft foam with an attached stretchy cap that prevented the mask from slipping during treatment.
As late as 1990, there was not an acceptable diaper on the market for extremely premature infants. Nurses were forced to cut diapers in half to accomodate ultra-premature infants. Rogone and Small Beginnings developed a line of disposable diapers in a range of sizes for preemies.
The buttlerfly-shaped "Lil' Pacee" pacifier for premature infants was developed by four neonatal nurses and nurse practitioners. The Lil' Pacee pacifier is made of soft medical grade silicone and has six ventilation holes. Testing ensured that the products were safe. The force required to pull a suspended, weighted pacifier through the opening in the metal frame seen below, for example, was evaluated to eliminate choking hazards.
Listen to a two-part podcast with Sharon Rogone >>
Source for quote above: “Prototype Online Podcast: Sharon Rogone Invents for Preemies, Part 1,” Lemelson Center, 2007, https://invention.si.edu/podcast-sharon-rogone-invents-preemies-part-1-2.