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HIP graduate launches pioneering app to support breastfeeding mums during World Breastfeeding Week

After successfully graduating from our Health Innovation Programme in 2018, Dr Chen Mao Davies has gone from strength to strength, co-developing her innovative LatchAid solution with top infant and maternal health experts to help revolutionise breastfeeding.

During World Breastfeeding Week, the Gloucestershire-based company takes its next exciting step with the launch of the new LatchAid app.

Lack of breastfeeding is a global concern and the UK has the worst breastfeeding rate in the world. Breastfeeding reduces risks of diseases for mothers and babies, improves life expectancy, strengthens immune systems, and boosts IQ/EQ for babies. But despite this, 90% of mothers give up before they want to because of pain, health issues caused by incorrect latching and lack of appropriate support.

LatchAid was set up by Dr Chen Mao Davies, an Oscar and BAFTA-winning expert in computer graphics and animation, after facing her own struggles with breastfeeding, pain and subsequent depression. She realised that mothers needed maternal support fit for the 21st century; a smart, on-hand, interactive way to learn vital and practical breastfeeding skills.

Chen took part in our Health Innovation Programme (HIP) back in 2018 to help develop her idea. Describing her experience on HIP, she said: “I would absolutely recommend the Health Innovation Programme to anyone in my position. It gave me a crash course in business and helped me to move things forward immeasurably.”

With ongoing support from the West of England AHSN, the team has since won multiple awards and over £250,000 competitive grant funding from Innovate UK, EU, Q Exchange, UnLtd and the NHS, and is currently partnering with 12 NHS trusts across the UK, as well as Virgin Care, to pilot the technology.

In 2021, Chen also won the prestigious Women In Innovation Award 2021, being named one of the UK’s top 40 women innovators and the Business Insider 42 under 42.

Chen said: “We believe that every mother deserves the support and empowerment to give their child the best start in life. This is at the core of everything we do. I understand first-hand the challenges that mothers face; that is what motivated me to start LatchAid. I know we can help mothers overcome these struggles.”

The app will be launched on Apple App Store on Thursday 5 August during World Breastfeeding Week, which aims to raise public awareness and galvanise action on breastfeeding every year.

This year’s theme is the shared responsibility we all have to protect breastfeeding. And with the number of UK mothers breastfeeding dropping from 81% at birth to 12% at four months, LatchAid believes its efforts to protect breastfeeding are urgently needed.

LatchAid has already been beta tested by over 1,000 people in 20 countries across six continents. The app has been co-developed with leading infant feeding, baby development and maternal health specialists. Mothers, mothers-to-be and professionals alike agree that it is reliable and accurate, that it can improve confidence in new mothers and improve breastfeeding skills. LatchAid’s user study showed that it has helped over 70% of breastfeeding mothers increase their confidence and skills in just four weeks and over 80% of mothers and healthcare professionals said they would recommend LatchAid to friends, family, and clients.

From August 2021, LatchAid will be prescribed through a pilot study to new mothers across 12 different NHS trusts and Virgin Care to support their infant-feeding teams.

Commenting on working with the West of England AHSN, Chen said:

 “The AHSN has been a huge support in my innovator journey: from the Health Innovation Programme in June 2018, to the ongoing support received since with regards to writing bids and securing funding opportunities, designing the NHS app pilot evaluation frame and connecting me to NHS maternity services and commissioners.

“I definitely would not be where I am now without their help.”

Posted on August 4, 2021

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