Posted on March 8, 2022

LatchAid is an easy-to-use breastfeeding support app which utilises cutting-edge 3D interactive and Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology to help parents learn vital breastfeeding skills. It also allows users to connect with others for invaluable peer-to-peer and professional support.

With our support and expertise, LatchAid has grown from business acorn to a winner of the Innovate UK Awards 2021 and has, to date, been awarded over £250,000 in grant funding.

The app has recently been trialled as part of an NHS pilot project, where it was available for free on prescription in select regions of the UK. It is also available to purchase on the Apple App store and currently has users in 73 countries. Plans are in progress for the launch of an Android version of the app in Summer 2022.

The challenge

The UK has the worst breastfeeding rate in the world. Sadly, 90% of mothers give up before they want to, due to lack of support, pain/health issues, and feelings of isolation and depression.

Difficulties in achieving a good latch can led to breast infections, baby weight loss and postpartum depression.

This costs the NHS £50m a year on excess appointments for babies fed on formula milk, who are then more prone to illness.

Our approach

LatchAid utilises cutting-edge 3D interactive and AI technology to help parents who are having problems getting their baby to latch, to visually learn breastfeeding skills. An avatar demonstrates vital breastfeeding skills, such as how the baby should take the mother’s areola into his / her mouth, achieving a ‘deep latch’ that prevents damage to the breast.

It also allows users to join webinars and interact with Anya AI (the app’s chatbox) and lactation consultants to ask questions, as well as connect with others in a virtual peer support group.

The app, which was developed by Chen Mao Davies after experiencing huge breastfeeding challenges herself, began its innovation journey on our Health Innovation Programme (HIP) in 2018.

Chen Mao Davies

Here she was able to test the validity of her early-stage business proposition with experts and learn how to navigate a very complex healthcare landscape and pitch into the NHS.

Since graduating from the HIP, we have continued to support Chen and LatchAid on its healthcare innovation journey; presenting funding opportunities, reviewing and steering applications for funding (such as the Innovate UK award) and making introductions to key contacts within the NHS. We funded an expediated ORCHA Review, connected Chen to NHS maternity services and commissioners and supported with the design of the evaluation framework for an NHS pilot. We also sponsored LatchAid to exhibit at the HETT show in the London ExCel.

“I learned a huge amount in the HIP bootcamp training and was able to share my business ideas with fellow innovators, present my business proposition to a panel of experts and start building relationships with a network of experts and fellow entrepreneurs. Since then, I have continued to receive ongoing support from the AHSN with regards to funding opportunities, application reviews, pilot evaluations and connecting me to NHS maternity services and commissioners. I definitely would not be where I am now without the help of the West of England AHSN.”

Chen Mao Davies, Founder/CEO of LatchAid and HIP graduate 2018

Impacts to date

To date, and with our support, LatchAid has been awarded over £250,000 grant funding from Innovate UK, EU, UnLtd, and the NHS.

In 2021, Chen Mao Davies was recognised as a ‘42 under 42’ rising star by South West Business Insider magazine.

She was also named as ‘one of the top 40 female innovators in the UK’ by Innovate UK and awarded a ‘Women in Innovation Award 2021’ with £50,000 of funding.

In August 2021, LatchAid launched on the Apple App store and has users in 73 countries (as of January 2022).

Most recently, Chen has worked in partnership with 12 NHS trusts and VirginCare on a pilot project to prescribe the app to 5,000 families, as part of their infant feeding support. Infant feeding experts, midwives and health visitors were able to prescribe LatchAid for free to all new parents (iOS users) in participating regions. The pilot will be evaluated and – if it proves successful – it is hoped this will lead to wider adoption and spread of the solution across the NHS.

With a growing media presence, Chen and the LatchAid app have received positive press spots in several industry and regional titles to date, including an interview in December 2021 with BBC Radio Gloucestershire, leading to a feature on the BBC news website. Watch the video here or below:

“Put this app on your phone, it’s the closest thing you’re going to have to a Lactation Consultant or a peer supporter in your pocket.” 

Emma, a breastfeeding mother

“Just to have that instant support, all hours of the night. Amazing”.

Breastfeeding mother

 

“I have used the app with colleagues who have found it really useful. They enjoy the 3D effect and the ability to view things from different angles.”

Amanda, NHS Health Visitor

 

Next steps

We will continue to work with the LatchAid team to:

  • Review outcomes/outputs from the pilots
  • Understand any gaps in evidence base (and explore further evidence generation support)
  • Review and provide feedback on NHS business case
  • Continue to broker NHS relationships within the region.

The West of England AHSN began work with LatchAid began in 2018 and continues to provide support.

Find out more about LatchAid – www.latchaid.com

LatchAid featured on the BBC – https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/av/uk-england-bristol-59655402

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