August 30, 2016

Dr. Kristin Tully

Dr. Kristin Tully

Kristin Tully, PhD, of the Carolina Global Breastfeeding Institute (CGBI), has been recognized with the Improving Human Health Award, presented by the North Carolina Translational & Clinical Sciences Institute (NC TraCS) at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Tully is a research associate in the Department of Maternal and Child Health at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health. She also is the project manager of two federally funded research studies on infant sleep development (through the Center for Developmental Science) and a Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute Engagement Award on unmet maternal health needs (through the UNC Center for Maternal and Infant Health and CGBI).

Tully received the award in support of a project that will design and develop infant side-car bassinets for use in United States hospital postnatal units.

In collaboration with the industrial design faculty and students at North Carolina State University’s College of Design, as well as design and engineering firm Trig Innovation, UNC researchers will create medical-grade side-car bassinet prototypes for testing at UNC Hospitals and will further refine the models for widespread manufacturing.

“Side-car bassinets are three-sided and lock onto to the maternal hospital bed frame, keeping the newborn within the mother’s reach and on the same level,” Tully explained. “Side-cars in the hospital setting have been adopted overseas with success, but they are not yet available in the U.S. We aim to change this because side-cars have the potential to improve three critical components of maternity care: maternal-infant health, patient satisfaction and clinical staffing.”

A side-car bassinet adjoins a hospital bed, making it easier for mothers to access newborns. (Photo credit: Kristin Tully)

A side-car bassinet locks onto the maternal hospital bed frame, making it easier for mothers to access newborns. (Photo credit: Kristin Tully)

Tully received the Improving Human Health Award with Catherine Sullivan, MPH, RD, LDN, clinical assistant professor of maternal and child health in the Gillings School, acting director of CGBI; Alison Stuebe, MD, MSc, FACOG, associate professor of maternal and child health in the Gillings School, associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology in the UNC School of Medicine, Distinguished Scholar of Infant and Young Child Feeding at UNC; and Carl Seashore, MD, associate professor of pediatrics in the UNC School of Medicine.

In 2012, Tully led a randomized controlled trial that used overnight filming in a hospital in England to examine maternal and newborn interactions following cesarean childbirth. In this study and others, she and colleagues found that side-cars improved maternal-infant bonding and health outcomes such as breastfeeding while also reducing infant handling risks and nursing staff time spent on non-medical needs.

In addition to the side-cars improving the entire postpartum experience for mothers and newborns, the alleviation of non-critical demands on nursing time means the specialized bassinets offer potential cost-savings related to hospital staffing.

“Stand-alone bassinets are not designed for mothers to use without getting out of bed,” says Tully. “This structural constraint results in a reliance on others – such as nurses – and causes a delay in access to infants that is highly frustrating for mothers.”

Tully’s work with side-car bassinets is featured in a new clinical report, titled “Safe Sleep and Skin-to-Skin Care in the Neonatal Period for Healthy Term Newborns,” which was published online Aug. 22 by the American Academy of Pediatrics.

The report highlights the many benefits of side-car use in hospital settings, which make the planned results of Tully’s Improving Human Health Award especially promising. At the end of the 18-month project period, licensing and strategic partnerships should enable the side-cars to be implemented widely in clinics around the U.S.

“This work will address a critical gap in health care,” Tully said. “We are excited for this opportunity to better serve families.”


Gillings School of Global Public Health contact: David Pesci, director of communications, (919) 962-2600 or

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