Baby alarms keep track of newborns

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, March 28, 2006

By Adam Hammer, staff writer

Being a new parent can be an emotional rollercoaster of happiness, amazement and fear &045; including the fear of having your newborn taken by a stranger or bringing the wrong baby home from the hospital.

The hugs and kisses security program at Albert Lea Medical Center’s Baby Place helps parents focus less on fear and more on the joys of parenthood.

Email newsletter signup

&8220;It definitely makes us feel safer,&8221; Tonia Palmer said holding her newborn son Alexander in a recovery room at ALMC. &8220;I’d rather have it this way. We’re already nervous enough as new parents.&8221;

ALMC integrated the kisses program March 20 with their already existing hugs security program. The program operates using computer integrated tags manufactured by VeriChip Corporation.

At 9:06 a.m. the same day, Alexander Duane was born.

&8220;We’ve really liked the hugs program. It only made sense to integrate them,&8221; Joy Shaft, outpatient nurse manager at the Birthing Place, said. &8220;If there’s something out there to give a higher level of security, that’s important.&8221;

Here’s how the system works: Minutes after delivery, a hugs anklet is attached to the newborn while still in its parents’ sight. The small device &045; which weighs one-third of an ounce &045; is programmed for that baby with a unique identification number and matched to the mother’s kisses bracelet. The two devices are bonded together in the delivery room.

Darin Palmer, Tonia’s husband and Alexander’s father, said seeing the bands bonded in the delivery room gave an additional sense of security for him. Darin places security high on his list of priorities as a member of the Albert Lea Police Department’s Special Weapons and Tactical &045; SWAT &045; team.

Fathers do not receive kisses tags. They do, however, have traditional wristbands that match them to their newborn. Mother and baby also have traditional bands, but the hugs and kisses system indicates a match or mismatch without the need for visual checks.

The hugs and kisses system automatically confirms that the right baby is with the right mother after they have been seperated for more than 20 minutes. When a kisses device comes within 18 inches of a hugs device, a lullaby plays signaling a match between the right mother and baby. If the devices do not match, an alarm sounds.

A mother and baby’s hugs and kisses tags are bonded for the duration of their hospital stay and will work if other infants are in the room. Both devices are waterproof and reusable, according to VeriChip.

Multiple hugs device can be bonded to one kisses device in cases where there are twin or triplet babies.

ALMC set up the hugs program as a contained security measure four years ago. That security program is still in effect.

Every exit point on the third floor of ALMC is electronically monitored to detect the hugs tags.

Staff can still move freely within the protected zone, but no one can remove an infant from the unit without the staff being alerted.

If an infant wearing a hugs band is detected leaving the protected zone, a Code Amber goes into effect.

&8220;Not every situation is a happy birth,&8221; Shaft said. &8220;We want to maintain the safety of our newborns.&8221;

A Code Amber is an automatic lock down of the third floor of ALMC where the Birthing Place is located. The third floor can also be in lock down at the push of a button, Shaft said.

The hugs system will also alert staff if the bands are cut, the tag’s signal is not detected or if its battery power is low.

While infant abductions are rare &045; and have never happened at ALMC &045; they are a tragic occurance to be protected against.

&8220;It’s something that’s always in the back of your mind,&8221; Tonia Palmer said.

(Contact Adam Hammer at or 379-3439.)