Reply All Interview (Gimlet Media)

I was so happy to be able to work with Phia Bennen–a producer at Gimlet Media. She contacted me to learn more about my experience in milk banks in Brazil.

Here’s a brief summary about what I talked about during the interview:

In short, the time I spent in Brazil was life-changing. On my very first day, the pediatrician sat me down in front of a mom whose right breast was twice the size of her left (!) with painful golf-ball sized lumps inside. The pediatrician told me: “This is the breast massage technique you need to do to help relieve her pain, I’ll be back in 15.”

You have to understand – at this point in my life, the only breasts I had ever touched were my own. In fact, I had never heard of a health provider recommending breast massage as a way to alleviate pain and to return milk flow in lactating mothers. After about 10 seconds of awkward staring at the floor, I mustered up the courage to look up at the mother. To this day, I can still feel the pain that I saw in her eyes. It was a pain I had never seen before; Tinged with guilt and fear. Guilt that she couldn’t feed her baby and the real fear that her baby would go hungry.

I spent the next ten minutes diligently massaging her right breast, trying very hard to appear professional and experienced. At some point, I felt her upper body begin to soften and I finally dared to look up again. I could see that the panic in her eyes was gone.

By the end of the hour, she was breastfeeding her baby.

It was at that moment that I knew that the answer isn’t putting more technology between the mom and the baby, but to use technology’s strength to enable us to communicate better. I called my team and told them that the breast pump we were working on, the breast pump that was our claim to fame, the reason we started a company, wouldn’t work. We spent the next six months thinking, researching, and talking to as many moms and providers we could to gather the information we needed to figure out what to do next.

At the end of six months–we had our answer.

  1. We learned that fewer than 20% of hospitals in the United States are baby-friendly.
  2. We learned that doctors and nurses in the United States don’t learn about breastfeeding management during their training – Meaning they cannot help mothers with breastfeeding initiation in the hospitals
  3. We learned that there are only 3.8 lactation consultants per 1000 newborns in the United States!
  4. We learned that mothers rely on YouTube and Mommy Blogs to get their breastfeeding advice. Those websites are not evidence-based and it can be hard to find what you need (especially if you don’t even know what you are looking for).

We decided that we need to initiate a breastfeeding culture shift in the United States and we can do this by educating parents and providers about breast massage techniques that work. Based on our research and our conversations with moms and providers we know that breast massage can improve, prevent, or alleviate the most common breastfeeding problems. If parents and providers know how and when to use breast massage then breastfeeding can continue uninterrupted for the recommended six months and the United States saves $13 billion a year in maternal and child infections, illnesses, hospitalizations and infant formula purchases.

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