Breastfeeding can really suck- but it doesn’t have to (well, at least not in the emotional sense.) Much of the anxiety that comes with breastfeeding is birthed from the mother’s uncertainty regarding how much milk her baby is consuming. Sure, we can keep a tally of soiled diapers, but if a baby still seems like she’s hollering for more, many new mamas panic and switch to formula- even if their body is pumping out plenty of milk.
What to do?
Enter Momsense, a new product designed to record and report how much baby is actually consuming by using a tiny sensor placed behind baby’s ear that captures the sounds of baby’s swallowing to determine how much milk is being gulped down- the information is then sent to a program in mom’s smartphone (on Airplane mode) that allows her to keep track of how much baby receives during each meal. Cool!
I had the opportunity to interview the CEO of Momsense, Dr. Osnat Emanuel, who not only has the professions creds to be the leader of a product that is helping breastfeeding moms across the globe, but she’s breastfed three of her own children as well, ensuring a stellar dose of intelligence and heart is infused into the product.
Bailey: What was the initial thought or experience that sparked Momsense?
Dr. Emanuel: Momsense started through the awareness that many women experience insecurity and lack of confidence while nursing. As more research was collected, there was a clear understanding that millions of nursing women around the globe experience uncertainty in knowing how much breast milk their baby is consuming.
According to Unicef and the World Health Organization, infants should be exclusively breastfed for the first 6 months of life to achieve optimal growth, development, and health. However, the following statistics have been recognized in the USA alone.
*4,000,000 women give birth every year
*3,200,000 women choose to breastfeed exclusively
*1,600,000 women stop breastfeeding because of a fear that they’re producing an insufficient milk supply
This sense of insecurity over milk supply leads to anxiety and worry, and eventually prompts these mothers to decide to stop nursing, despite that fact that research shows only 5-15% of women actually have low milk supply.
Bailey: How long did it take to get Momsense from “idea” to “tangible product”?
Dr. Emanuel: Momsense started in 2008, when a team of professionals, passionate about the importance of breastfeeding, first decided to explore how to quantify the amount of milk a baby actually swallows while nursing. The team developed and patented the algorithm that captures and measures the acoustic signal of baby’s swallow sound, using the physical signature of the swallow to identify the nursing events, and then using the analysis to report the volume.
The technology was then embedded in a product that fundamentally could be used while nursing, not interfering with the natural way a mother nurses her baby. The design includes an ear set with a tiny sensor to place under baby’s earlobe to capture the acoustic signal of baby’s swallowing sounds. The technology connects to a smart device, allowing the Momsense app to act as an interface where parents can visually see how much breast milk their baby is consuming in real time. Safety is key, so the application is configured to operate on airplane mode.
By 2014, after rigorous R&D, the Momsense team was able to conduct beta testing of the product, and ran extensive tests with hundreds of mothers. After receiving certification and safety endorsements, in 2016, Momsense officially launched the Smart Breastfeeding Meter.
Bailey: Did you breastfeed? If so, what was your breastfeeding experience like?
Dr. Emanuel: I breastfed all three of my children, and each experience was very unique. With each child I felt I had to start from the very beginning and find out what works best for me and my nursing baby. These were very memorable times, and I treasured the alone time with each baby. Before breastfeeding, I received a lot of advice, especially from my mother! However, as I understood with each baby, the nursing experiences really vary. I too struggled with initial concerns of whether my baby was consuming enough, and the initial insecurity and worry can be frustrating. This is why I related so much to Momsense’s endeavor.
Bailey: What has been one of your favorite “success stories” from women who have used Momsense?
Dr. Emanuel: There are so many Momsense stories I hear every day from mothers around the world. But, Orian’s story remains close to my heart. Orian is a mother who did not breastfeed her first child. When she gave birth to her first, her sister purchased a pump and right from the start showed her how to pump and bottle feed her baby, because she needed to be sure how much the baby was consuming.
When we began our beta testing, Orian was pregnant with her second baby, and she agreed to be part of our Momsense trial. We gave her the Momsense product to test, and immediately after giving birth, she began using Momsense. The bonding experience while nursing this baby was so different than her first child. She felt the security in knowing how much her baby was nursing using Momsense, and these initial fears instilled by her sister were alleviated. Her baby is over a year old and she continues to nurse using Momsense.
Bailey: What would your main piece of advice/support be for women struggling with breastfeeding?
Dr. Emanuel: What I constantly tell moms is listen to your intuition. Nursing takes time to adjust to, and every mother needs to find her own groove with each baby. Also, it is always okay to ask for advice. There are so many support systems available to help moms adjust to this new experience. Find what works best for you, and enjoy the special time – they grow up so fast.