Helping Breastfeeding Mother & Babies
How Lactapp created a solution to develop a community for women breastfeeding.
June 16, 2022 | by Avantika Pathak
The need to provide continuous professional support and develop a community for women who are breastfeeding was born from a traumatic life experience for Maria Berruezo.
Maria and her 5 week old baby were run over by a car. Luckily, the baby recovered quickly, but Maria sustained multiple injuries requiring two months of hospitalization which was made even more difficult by doctors telling her that she would not be able to breastfeed.
Alba, an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC), supported her friend by building a community of mothers willing to donate breast milk for the baby. She also provided the necessary professional support for Maria to successfully restart her lactation journey.
Lactation is an essential part of motherhood. Still, most mothers are better prepared for pregnancy than they are for the changes their bodies undergo after their baby is born. Many mothers will face common challenges as they start their breastfeeding journey from difficulties with latching, along with breast and nipple pain, to perceived or actual low milk supply. ¹² These concerns often lead to premature weaning and a massive dip in the percent of women exclusively breastfeeding their infants at 6 months, a recommendation strongly supported by both UNICEF and the WHO.³
Connecting patients with IBCLCs can help mothers overcome breastfeeding barriers and reach their lactation goals.4 However, 43% of mothers in the US report not having any general or specialized support for breastfeeding problems they encounter.
The Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Support Breastfeeding recognizes IBCLCs as the “only health care professionals certified in lactation care.”5
IBCLCs are clinical experts who use current, evidence-based information in breastfeeding and lactation to guide and empower mothers and their families through breastfeeding challenges.6 They alleviate the burden of managing and supporting common breastfeeding concerns from physicians who often lack the necessary knowledge and time to do so.2 As in Maria’s case, individual case studies have shown that IBCLCs can help in complex clinical scenarios ranging from the successful relactation of a breastfeeding mother after an illness to helping a mother breastfeed her twins after undergoing breast cancer treatment and mastectomy.7
Driven by her personal challenges with breastfeeding Berruezo founded LactApp, a platform focused on improving access to the vast knowledge of lactation consults for mothers worldwide. The startup’s commendable goal to provide personal and professional support throughout the breastfeeding journey for both mother and baby secured it a spot in HITLAB’s competitive Women’s Health Tech Challenge (WHTC). The WHTC gave the LactApp team a platform to showcase their company to U.S. investors and receive personalized business strategy tips from HITLAB professionals.
Why Is Breastfeeding Important?
It is a long-term investment in the emotional and physical well-being of mothers and their babies.
- Less risk of postpartum depression and more positive mood8
- Fewer urinary tract infections
- May decrease the risk of breast and ovarian cancer9
- May also result in less diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, and osteoporosis with age8
- Reduces the risk of sudden infant death syndrome9
- Less illness overall and less hospitalization8
- May reduce the likelihood of obesity, type 2 diabetes, and asthma
- May have greater immunity to infection
“We do not actively focus on breastfeeding as preventive care or as a public health benefit, but breastfeeding has immense value for the rest of your life.” – Christiane Gross, International Business Development lead at LactApp.
How is LactApp Helping New Moms?
It is a new mobile application that provides breastfeeding advice to support women from all backgrounds. After creating their leading breastfeeding app in 2016, LactApp branched out to design a set of tools for healthcare professionals to assist breastfeeding mothers and their babies.
Rather than replacing clinical experts, LactApp harnesses the knowledge of IBCLCs to help women recognize what is normal and when to seek out a professional.
“When women are pregnant they only prepare for the birth – many believe that breastfeeding simply involves the baby latching onto the breast. They are not prepared for the challenges and pain that often accompany this process.” – Christiane Gross
The LactApp application covers a range of diverse topics and has curated over 2,500 personalized, evidence-based answers to users’ questions on breastfeeding and motherhood from an emotional, social, and physical perspective.
Current LactApp features include:
Personalized responses to questions from mother based on baby’s age and weight gain*
Trackers: Baby weight & height; left/right side feeds; breast pain
Personalized plans to prepare for a return to work and achieve exclusive breastfeeding
Easy and useful breastfeeding tests to help with maternity decisions
*If a baby is less than 2 weeks old, the questions are immediately flagged as emergent and the mother will receive a response much sooner
“Our trackers are focused on not just identifying breastfeeding frequency or bodily functions of the baby but identifying when issues occur and tailoring support to address them.” – Christiane Gross
Looking Ahead – What Makes Lactapp Unique
The startup recently released LactApp Medical, a professional version of the app tailored specifically to healthcare practitioners, and is also working on a premium version for mothers called LactApp Plus. Finally, the LactApp team is in the early stages of building an AI-powered chatbot and image recognition software for mastitis that will be representative of all women.
LactApp features in progress
AI-powered database of images and user responses > 500k users
High-quality, expert created video content (3-4 min)**
Personalized notifications on physiological stages and changes to expect**
Premium chat function with an IBCLC – receive answers within 2 hrs**
Current languages: Spanish, English, and Portuguese
Lactapp Pro – Consult on different cases at the same time
** LactApp Plus is the premium version of the app ($)
“Lactation consultants are involved with various aspects of the app from overseeing content shared in the chat function to leading short video courses that explain and show positioning and attachment. Even when we implement our AI-based responses, they will be analyzed by IBCLCs to ensure safety and accuracy.” – Christiane Gross
How is Lactapp addressing access
LactApp is currently one of the most accessible breastfeeding support solutions, evidenced by its presence in more than 177 countries. The team actively addresses health literacy and language barriers through their blog posts and the translation of both the app’s freemium and premium versions into multiple languages, respectively.
According to Gross, LactApp’s global success can be attributed in part to the low or no cost of the app’s core functions.
“Even with the release of our premium version, the cost is a fraction of the out of pocket price of current telelactation services.” – Christiane Gross
Telehealth for women10
- Unlimited video visits with IBCLCs via smartphone app
- IBCLCs available 24/7
$99 for 3-month membership
Telehealth for women
- Video visits and private messaging with IBCLCs via smartphone app and website
- By appointment, same day
$25 for 20-minute visit
Large established DTC telemedicine company
- Video visits with IBCLCs via smartphone app and website
- IBCLCs available 24/7
- By appointment, same day
$130 for 50 minutes for initial visit; $75 for 25-minute follow-up visit
Individual, entrepreneurial lactation consultants
Video visits, e-mail, and text consultations often using existing platforms such as Skype and Facetime
Approximately $50 for 25- to 50-minute visit
Mobile breastfeeding application
- Personalized responses overseen by IBCLCs
- Interactive chat function – receive response within 2 hours
- LactApp – Free
- LactApp Plus – Weekly $3.99
- LactApp Plus – Semiannual $38.99
At a time where the US Surgeon General calls for 8.6 IBCLCs per 1000 births, the majority of states fall woefully short.4 Despite the ACA and CMS recommending that private insurers and expanded Medicaid plans reimburse “comprehensive lactation support and counseling by a trained provider” during pregnancy and/or in the postpartum period, consistent coverage is lacking across most states.12 Lack of reimbursement and shortened postpartum coverage under Medicaid deepen the already existing disparities in breastfeeding rates among low income, racial and ethnic minorities, and rural mothers. LactApp improves access to lactation support by providing a number of services at an affordable price.4, 13
LactApp’s Biggest Achievements:
LactApp’s successful and expansive user acquisition, achieved mainly through organic word of mouth and search of the app by users or healthcare professionals rather than paid strategies, is a testament to the app’s ability to meet the needs of mothers worldwide.
The team saw a 133% growth in users during the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Receiving texts from mothers in Nepal or Egypt relaying that we have made a difference in their lives are some of our proudest moments – we acknowledge it as a true achievement to be able to reach mothers in really remote areas” – Christiane Gross
Recognizing the app’s contribution in facilitating global access to rigorous and reliable lactation information, the Unicef Acceleration Program selected it to win first prize from more than 200 submissions.14
Gross also shared that the team has been exploring partnerships with some of the largest technology giants. In 2019, they were selected for Apple’s Entrepreneur Camp for female founders and developers, a unique opportunity that led the founder to envision early identification of mastitis through image recognition.
Women’s Health Tech Challenge (WHTC) and Beyond
As a Barcelona-based company, Gross explained that funding is a major challenge for LactApp because of the limited accelerator programs and funding available at the seed stage in Spain. HITLAB’s WHTC not only expanded LactApp’s access to more funding opportunities but also to resources and professional guidance that would help them adapt their pitch for U.S. investors. Gross added that learning about the competitive landscape and U.S. healthcare infrastructure has given them vital insight on how to build a reimbursable product.
“Susan Solinsky’s mentoring sessions were particularly invaluable, because she took the time to recognize the barriers LactApp faces in the Spanish ecosystem”— Christiane Gross
Looking ahead, Gross and her team are continuing to work on the premium version of their app which will initially release in Spanish. Follow their progress and involvement in research to promote evidence-based lactation practices at lactapp.es.
About the Author
1. Breastfeeding Challenges: ACOG Committee Opinion Summary, Number 820. Obstet Gynecol. 2021 Feb 1;137(2):394-395.
- Radzyminski S, Callister LC. Health Professionals’ Attitudes and Beliefs About Breastfeeding. J Perinat Educ. 2015;24(2):102-109.
- Breastfeeding. World Health Organization. https://www.who.int/health-topics/breastfeeding#tab=tab_2
- Ray KN, Demirci JR, Uscher-Pines L, Bogen DL. Geographic Access to International Board-Certified Lactation Consultants in Pennsylvania. J Hum Lact. 2019;35(1):90-99.
- Office of the Surgeon General (US); Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (US); Office on Women’s Health (US). The Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Support Breastfeeding. Rockville (MD): Office of the Surgeon General (US); 2011. A Call to Action. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK52691/
- Position Paper on the Role and Impact of the IBCLC. International Lactation Consultant Association. 2011 June.
- Haase B, Brennan E, Wagner CL. Effectiveness of the IBCLC: Have we Made an Impact on the Care of Breastfeeding Families Over the Past Decade? J Hum Lact. 2019 Aug;35(3):441-452. doi: 10.1177/0890334419851805. Epub 2019 Jun 17. PMID: 31206324.
- The Benefits of Breastfeeding for Baby & for Mom. Cleveland Clinic. Last reviewed 2018 Jan 1. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/15274-the-benefits-of-breastfeeding-for-baby–for-mom
- Breastfeeding: Surgeon General’s Call to Action Fact Sheet. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. https://www.hhs.gov/surgeongeneral/reports-and-publications/breastfeeding/factsheet/index.html
- Uscher-Pines L, Mehrotra A, Bogen DL. The emergence and promise of telelactation. Am J Obstet Gynecol. 2017 Aug;217(2):176-178.e1. doi: 10.1016/j.ajog.2017.04.043. Epub 2017 May 6. PMID: 28483569.v
- LactApp. App Store Preview. https://apps.apple.com/us/app/lactapp/id1040787494
- Herold RA, Bonuck K. Medicaid IBCLC Service Coverage following the Affordable Care Act and the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services Update. J Hum Lact. 2016 Feb;32(1):89-94.
- Wouk K, Chetwynd E, Vitaglione T, Sullivan C. Improving Access to Medical Lactation Support and Counseling: Building the Case for Medicaid Reimbursement. Matern Child Health J. 2017;21(4):836-844.
- LactApp Wins First Prize in Unicef Acceleration Program. Femtech.live. 2021 July 9. https://femtech.live/lactapp-wins-first-prize-in-unicef-acceleration-program/