The societal and economic costs of breastfeeding are beneficial not just to women and children but to all. As the World Health Organisation notes, “Breastfeeding is one of the best investments in global health: every $1 invested in breastfeeding generates $35 in economic returns”.
With a multi-billion dollar industry emerging, and a global market size prediction of $2.5 Billion by 2027, why is breastfeeding still being overlooked? We spoke with four lactation technology experts from the FemTech space to find out.
Why lactation technology?
Etta Watts-Russell, Founder of Lactamo – who won the 2019 Australian MedTech Actuator Award – quotes the World Health Organisation, saying “babies and Mothers worldwide are being failed by a lack of investment in breastfeeding”. She continues, “breastfeeding rates worldwide are disappointingly low and most Mothers experience common problems, yet there are so few products available to help.”
Ravid Shechter and Sharon Haramati, Founders of MyMilk Labs, agreed with Etta. “Women that want to breastfeed and feed breastmilk to their babies face many barriers, difficulties, conflicting misinformation, and uncertainty, leading to very high rates of reported difficulties (over 90% of mothers), and low breastfeeding adherence and earlier than desired breastfeeding cessation.”
Rosanne Longmore, whose product Coro gives accurate, precise and real-time data as to how much breast-milk a baby is getting, continued this line of thought, “the World Health Organisation recommends mothers to exclusively breastfeed to 6 months however, in Europe only 13% of mothers will achieve this target.”
“The breastfeeding industry is crying out for innovation.“Etta Watts-Russell, Lactamo
So why is this? Well as Etta states “the breastfeeding industry is crying out for innovation!“ She explains that, “the existing products available are largely basic and outdated, for example, generic heat/cool packs.”
Ravid and Sharon raise this point too, noting, “breastfeeding was and, in many aspects still is, not tech-enabled, relative to other health and wellbeing sectors.” They went onto say, “there is peer-support, face-to-face assessment and Lactation consultant advice, but practically no diagnostic solutions, no objective feedback, and very few and similar breast pumping solutions.”
“breastfeeding was and, in many aspects still is, not tech-enabled, relative to other health and wellbeing sectors.”Ravid Shechter and Sharon Haramati, Founders of MyMilk Labs
Rosanne agreed, stating, “currently, there is no way to know how much breastmilk a baby is getting.” And as Rosanne went onto say, “studies show that this is one of the main reasons mothers stop breastfeeding sooner than planned, because of a concern regarding low supply.”
Ravid Shechter and Sharon Haramati, whose own experiences of breastfeeding led them on their FemTech journey say their product MyLee “is right in the centre of four peaking trends”.
“Firstly, breastfeeding trends have grown from close to none 30 years ago to almost all new mothers today,” say Ravid and Sharon. Rosanne also notes this as a catalyst in the breastfeeding tech space, stating “the health benefits of breastfeeding for babies, mothers and society are clear. This has resulted in a societal shift to support mothers who choose to breastfeed.”
Secondly, Ravid and Sharon note, “remote monitoring and telehealth – have gradually increased, peaking during the pandemic, and are here to stay!” And, in line with this move towards digital health is also “quantified self, and democratizing health, where people are taking their wellbeing into their own hands.”
Rosanne follows Ravid and Sharon’s line of thinking, “women are comfortable with technology solutions and want clear data so they can make the best decision for them in feeding their baby. We live in a world where every calorie burned and every step taken can be measured but until now, we have unable to inform mothers how much milk their baby is getting. This is surprising, especially to mothers who want to breastfeed but are concerned about supply issues.”
“We live in a world where every calorie burned and every step taken can be measured but until now, we have unable to inform mothers how much milk their baby is getting.”Rosanne Longmore, CEO of Coroflo,
Finally, Ravid and Sharon say, the “emergence of FemTech and female-led female-directed technologies” have been another catalyst for breastfeeding’s success. They said, “the understanding now, that women’s health and wellbeing is important, and problems and conditions that were once taboos are now getting the attention they deserve” is key!
“Women, in particular, are feeling empowered to initiate, drive and lead in this space, hand in hand with the wider FemTech movement.”Etta Watts-Russel, Founder of Lactamo
And Etta agrees, “after years of being overlooked this is finally being acknowledged: the benefits are being realised, and women, in particular, are feeling empowered to initiate, drive and lead in this space, hand in hand with the wider FemTech movement.”
What about the future?
Rosanne summarised the thoughts of all our contributors nicely, “in an ideal world Coro and other breastfeeding technologies would not have a role, all mothers who want to breastfeed would successfully do so without assistance.”
However, Rosanne says for now, “we [Coro] believe that future breastfeeding technologies should be developed to address a specific problem and for the specific cohort of mothers experiencing this problem.”
This is something Sharon and Ravid envision too, “[in the future] there are a plethora of emerging products. Not just cool gadgets but products that really give mothers value in improving breastfeeding experience.”
“The future of breastfeeding technology is exciting! For too long, women have been failed by a lack of investment in breastfeeding.”Etta Watts-Russell, Founder of Lactamo
Etta summarised our discussions perfectly, “the future of breastfeeding technology is exciting! For too long, women have been failed by a lack of investment in breastfeeding. Innovation is supporting women at such a vulnerable stage at the start of Motherhood, allowing them to realise their best success, and giving them the best experience in breastfeeding.”
With thanks to our contributors