Breast feeding app connects new moms with specialists

By Laura Lovett

Being a new parent can be scary—even figuring out a baby’s eating schedule can be tough. But researchers at Purdue University and Purdue Polytechnic Institute have developed a new app that virtually connects breastfeeding mothers to pediatricians and lactation specialists. 

The new app, called Lactor, collects data, monitors patients, and provides consultation for moms currently breast feeding.

"The difference with our app is that the server ties into a hospital or clinic and is designed to be proactive,” Jeffrey Brewer, cofounder of Lactor and an associate professor of computer and IT at Purdue Polytechnic Institute, said in a statement. "Our app is connected to a central database where we can have a lactation consultant on the other side of the world look at a mother's data and offer support. Our aim is for a nurse to view the lactation data and reach out immediately to the mother if there is an issue."

The app, which is one of the Purdue’s Startup Class of 2017, allows mothers to enter their breastfeeding data and then get notification and send messages back and forth to a provider. It also lets clinicians send users personalized messages and give support materials. 

"Mothers use the app as a type of diary to input data such as how many times she breastfeeds, for how long, how many ounces she may have pumped or additional data like if she's using a supplement," Azza Ahmed, associate professor in Purdue's School of Nursing and cofounder, said in a statement. "The app is connected to a server that allows the mothers to receive notifications or interventions from a professional if any questions or concerns arise, giving an opportunity to track their children's feeding patterns and detect any problems early and communication with the lactation consultant.”

Many women have difficultly breast feeding, especially in the first few weeks or months following their baby’s birth. 

"The most common problem faced is the inability to latch. If the baby is not latching, they are not getting enough milk, which could result in weight loss or dehydration," Ahmed said. "It happens often that mothers must come back to the clinic or formula must be introduced early. The inability to latch also could result in hospitalization, sore nipples, discouragement, and perceived insufficient milk. Mothers often need confidence to continue breastfeeding due to lack of self-efficacy, self-confidence, and social support.”

Ahmed and Brewer said the systems could eventually be able to let nurses or clinicians make phone calls and set up virtual appointments with breastfeeding mothers. Right now the app is checked twice a day but it could expand to a 24-7 service, said Brewer. 

Breast feeding technology has found its way into the digital health space. In fact at CES there were several connected breast pumps and breast feeding apps. For example, Willow is a handsfree breast pump that connects to the users phone so they can se what is happening while they pump. The app tracks milk volume, pumping time, and past pumping session. The device also automatically sense the users let-down and transitions into an expression phase. 

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