Two Florida Doctoral Nursing Students are Fighting to Improve Our Health Through Better Breastfeeding
We live in the greatest and most inspiring moment in human history for medical research and innovation; with new discoveries, cures, and technologies coming about every day. And one highly researched subject is the significant effect breast milk has on children’s’ health and development.
Studies have shown that when children are breastfed, there is a greater resistance to developing conditions such as systemic autoimmune diseases, allergies, and neurodevelopmental disorders (Weng & Walker, 2013). Other findings from a recent study suggest that breast milk provides babies with diverse gut microbiome that helps protect them from harmful diseases (Stewart et al., 2016). These are just a few of the incredible things breast milk can provide.
The ramifications of health go beyond just the mother and the child for those months or years of breastfeeding, they extend throughout the child’s life – having an impact on our species health worldwide. Imagine that.
We’ve created ways of providing more nutrients and supplements to children or mothers that could be lacking, but what we have not done as much is work to create more ways to help enable mothers to continue to help provide their child with the most immune boosting nutrients and continue to bond with their child.
We are feeling this issue more and more today with more women wanting to stay in the workforce after giving birth. And for women in America, this issue can be even more stressful because they’re going back to work after 8, maybe 12 weeks after giving birth and have to rely on bottles to feed their babies while they’re away and then experience difficulty getting the baby to latch and feed again from their breast.
But Lauren Wright, AGNP-BC, PhD(c) and Tram Pham, RN have entered the scene with The Natural Nipple. Their goal is to pioneer the first study that explores women’s natural flow rate at different stages post-birth and differences in nipple shape and structure to develop a better bottle to breast solution.
They want to design a bottle and nipple that doesn’t disrupt mothers’ breastfeeding by providing them with a bottle and bottle nipple that mimics maternal natural shape and flow rate so they’re able to more easily go between bottle and most importantly, breast.
Wright is a Nurse Practitioner working towards her PhD and Pham is finishing her Doctorate of Nursing Practice are at University of South Florida’s College of Nursing, and met while they were pursuing their bachelors in nursing. Wright, who has been studying the gut microbiome of preterm infants during her PhD, found that babies that weren’t getting enough mother’s milk were suffering fatal complications. This fueled her passion to create a solution that promotes prolonged breastfeeding- thus she invented The Natural Nipple. “What is unique about this product is that it is the first bottle nipple designed after mother’s nipple types, so that they can pick what shape is closest to their own to in order to promote prolonged breastfeeding! I can spend the rest of my life in a laboratory, but I hope to provide a solution reach and impact moms sooner rather than later!”
Growing up, Wright was homeschooled, on welfare, and had poor access to healthcare. This is where her passion for optimizing wellness in the global underserved community through integrating preventative primary health care and research began. “I remember being a little girl trying create remedies for my mom when she was ill. Although I am not a mother yet, my hope is to provide resources that empower breastfeeding, promote bonding and optimize wellness for mothers and babies worldwide by engineering a product that revolutionizes breast to bottle continuity.”
Pham, while rotating through the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), saw the difficulties mothers were encountering with getting their baby to latch after being introduced to a bottle nipple while staying in the NICU – an effect called ‘nipple confusion’. Her goal for the Natural Nipple is to eliminate nipple confusion by educating, assisting, empowering mothers who, at times, may feel helpless with breastfeeding their child. In a recent interview with Pham, she stated, “Breastfeeding for the first six months is crucial, but the World Health Organization actually recommends breastfeeding for two years. However, most mothers stop nursing around six months. We hope to combat that issue with the Natural Nipple. But we are also creating a movement where mothers feel comfortable in discussing their barriers to breastfeeding and seeking assistance from other mothers and even scientists and researchers!”
These young female innovators are currently working to create their first prototype of the nipple and bottle, and have been receiving so much positive feedback from mothers expressing interest to receiving $50,000 this past July from the National Science Foundation to continue working on The Natural Nipple. And this is only the beginning. In addition to full time classes and work, the team has been working tirelessly on grant proposals to fund the first study that actually documents maternal lactation flow rate of over the first two years of breastfeeding in order to set the standard in their products.
So for any mom who is trying to breastfeed but needs to get back to work, any mom who is experiencing extreme pain and needs to take a break from direct feeding, or struggling with breastfeeding in any other way – The Natural Nipple wants to offer a solution.
But looking at the big picture, these two young entrepreneurs (also scientists and nurses!) are hoping to help promote prolonged breastfeeding to help improve the current state of health around the world.
To learn more about The Natural Nipple and ways you can help, visit thenaturalnipple.com.
Stewart, C. J., Embleton, N. D., Marrs, E. C. L., Smith, D. P., Nelson, A., Abdulkadir, B., . . . Cummings, S. P. (2016). Temporal bacterial and metabolic development of the preterm gut reveals specific signatures in health and disease. Microbiome(1). doi:10.1186/s40168-016-0216-8
Weng, M., & Walker, W. A. (2013). The role of gut microbiota in programming the immune phenotype. Journal of Developmental Origins of Health & Disease, 4(3), 203.