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. Dr Chen Mao Davies was 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.

Since 2019, LatchAid has secured £365,000 in grant funding, £510,000 in loans and £500,000 in equity investment – and has now grown to a team of eight employees. The company has most recently won £100,000 of SBRI funding to tackle health inequalities in maternity care.

In 2022, LatchAid secured four contracts from NHS and NHS Providers, covering a population of 2 million.

The LatchAid app (iOS and Android) now has users in 95 countries.

Patient outcomes show that 96% of mothers using LatchAid are breastfeeding their babies at six weeks (compared with the national UK average of 48%). Early user studies indicate that over 70% of mothers increased their breastfeeding confidence and skills in just four weeks, while using LatchAid.

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 lead 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 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.

In this short video, LatchAid Founder Chen Mao Davies talks about why she created her innovative breastfeeding app. You can watch it here or below.

 

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

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. In 2021 we also sponsored LatchAid to exhibit at the HETT show in the London ExCel.

In the following short video, Chen talks about the support she has received from the West of England AHSN. You can watch it here or below.

 

“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.”

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

Impacts to date

Economic impact

To date, and with our support, LatchAid has been awarded over £365,000 grant funding from Innovate UK, EU, UnLtd, the NHS and SBRI, including three Innovate UK grants totaling over £190,000 and, most recently, £100,000 of SBRI funding to tackle health inequalities in maternity care.

Since 2019, the company has secured one Innovate UK loan totaling £510,000 and £500,000 in equity investment.

The team has now grown to a team of eight employees (from two earlier in 2022).

Patient and health care provider impact

In partnership with 12 NHS trusts and VirginCare, a four-month pilot project from October 2021 saw the LatchAid app prescribed for free 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 outcomes report is available here.

In 2022, LatchAid secured four contracts from NHS and NHS Providers, covering a population of 2 million.

Early user studies indicate that over 70% of mothers increased their breastfeeding confidence and skills in just four weeks. 96% of mothers using LatchAid are breastfeeding their babies at six weeks (compared with the national UK average of 48%).

“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

Other impacts

In 2021, Chen 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. You can read more about this here.

In August 2021, LatchAid launched its iOS app in the Apple App store, which was followed by the launch of its Android app in the Google Play Store in November 2022. The LatchAid app (iOS and Android) now has users in 95 countries.

LatchAid is also the No.1 best breastfeeding support app in the ORCHA digital library.

With a growing media presence, Chen and the LatchAid app have been featured in more than 70 press articles and interviews to date, including BBC News and Sky News.  Watch the BBC News video here or below:

Next steps

In December 2022, LatchAid plans to launch its rebranded Gen2.0 app Anya  on both iOS and Android platforms. The company is transforming the app to provide both breastfeeding and early parenthood support for the first 1,001 days (antenatal and postnatal), rebranding as Anya in January 2023.

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.

Find out more about LatchAid here.

Find out more about our Health Innovation Programme here.

For further information, you can email Dr Chen Mao Davies – Founder and CEO of LatchAid at chen.mao.davies@gmail.com or Alex Leach – Acting Director Innovation & Growth, West of England AHSN at alex.leach@nhs.net.

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