The entrepreneurial women transforming the breastfeeding experience

The entrepreneurial women transforming the breastfeeding experience

Etta Watts-Russell an entrepreneur around breastfeeding

How can we further improve the breastfeeding experience for new mothers? What can we do to give her more freedom, comfort and assistance in reducing possible infections?

These are questions we should be constantly asking. And I’m pleased to share a couple of great examples of Australian innovations and entrepreneurs who are providing some excellent answers.

Thankfully, there’s already been at least some significant innovation in the breastfeeding space, although once again it’s certainly taken its time, as is the standard story when it comes to women’s health.

For example, it’s incredible to think that the first electric pump wasn’t introduced until 1991, and that personal pumps weren’t available until 1998. Electric pumps continue to be priced well beyond the reach of most women, and can be cumbersome, noisy and difficult to operate.

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There’s much more work to be done here. Breastfeeding — an endless opportunity given the market of breastfeeding mothers — is never going away.

Elvie is one company that’s stepping ahead, introducing a silent and wearable breast pump. The London based Elvie was founded in 2013 by Tania Boler who was determined to bring the tech “out of the dark ages”. She initially launched the Elvie Trainer, a device to support pelvic floor rehabilitation. And later, via numerous rounds of funding, introduced a pump range to support breastfeeding.

But locally, we also have number of impressive innovators on a mission to change everything for breastfeeding mothers.

The first is Milkdrop, founded by Alexandra Sinickas, who worked with medical doctors and designers at Swinburne University to come up with a silicone cushion that fits the head of common breast pumps.

Milkdrop founder Alexandra Sinickas
Milkdrop founder Alexandra Sinickas

For Alexandra, she had used various pumps herself and experienced significant pain and damage. She found she was far from alone and so sought to find a solution that could help. Mentored by Adore Beuty’s Kate Morris as part of the Startmate accelerator program, the product she’s developed has already seen impressive results during pilot programs — with women who say they were typically experiencing pain while pumping, finding that the cushion was reducing redness, swelling and chafing.

Milkdrop estimates that there are 200,000 women in Australia who are using breast pumps every year. And they’re certaintly not always having a positive experience. This market is huge, and ripe for numerous improvements.

Then there is Etta Watts-Russell (pictured at top of story), the founder of Lactamo, a small massaging device that can be heated or cooled and is then used to massage breast tissue, remove lumps, and help prevent Mastitis, a condition affecting around one in five breastfeeding mothers internationally.

Mastitis is debilitating, causing significant pain in the breasts, aches all over, fevers and chills. Having been there myself (twice) I can say that it feels like you’re coming down with a horror case of the flu. I was lucky to be able to treat it quickly with antibiotics, not everyone can. Mastitis is a common reason why women stop breastfeeding. It’s great to see a local business aiming to tackle the problem.

Etta is a mother of four young children herself. And having experienced the emotional challenges of breastfeeding, she says she was disappointed with the lack of products available to support women during this time.

There is so much potential in improving the experience for breastfeeding mothers. It’s not just about reinventing or disrupting the pump, but providing the support mechanisms — from massage balls to cushions to potential simple treatments for basic common issues — to help. Of course, it goes much further, with the potential for more apps, more educational materials and even connection opportunities. Who knows what’s possible.

Investors, keep asking how we can improve this experience. There’s a huge and reoccurring market here. If you don’t know what challenges need to be solved, just go and ask a mother — better yet, invest in her.

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