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Dr Chen Mao Davies, founder and CEO of LatchAid

Innovative breastfeeding support app prescribed across multiple NHS regions

James Cortis
Authored by James Cortis
Posted: Friday, October 15, 2021 - 14:27

Gloucestershire-based LatchAid has launched its pioneering breastfeeding support app, with the NHS prescribing it in a pilot project across South Devon & Torbay, Lancashire & South Cumbria, Bath, North East Somerset, Swindon & Wiltshire, and Gloucestershire.

The project, funded by the Health Foundation, NHS England and NHS Improvement, aims to assess the effectiveness of the app in increasing breastfeeding rates in the participating areas. If successful, LatchAid hopes to see the app prescribed for free across the UK.

The UK has one of the worst breastfeeding rates globally, with 90% of women stopping breastfeeding before they would like to, according to NHS England. LatchAid aims to solve this problem with a smart, on-hand, interactive way to learn vital and practical breastfeeding skills.

The LatchAid platform uses a combination of cutting-edge 3D technology, Artificial Intelligence (AI), virtual peer support groups, and online ‘live’ experts to help teach women breastfeeding skills and provide them with personalised expertise and emotional support on a 24/7 basis.

Since launching, LatchAid has peaked at No. 46 on the Apple App Store's medical category –  there are more than 300,000 health apps in app stores.

LatchAid was founded by Dr Chen Mao Davies, an Oscar and BAFTA-winning expert in computer graphics and animation, who experienced first-hand struggles with breastfeeding, pain and subsequent depression.

“We believe that every mother deserves the support and empowerment to give their child the best start in life,” says Chen. “This is at the core of everything we do.”

Chen built the app with an ‘army’ of experts including infant feeding, baby development and maternal health specialists, as well as colleagues that she worked with when developing CGI technologies for Oscar-winning films like Gravity and top AI experts.

By bringing these specialisms and technologies together, LatchAid is able to provide detailed 3D animations to mothers – demonstrating how the baby should take the mother’s areola into his / her mouth, achieving a ‘deep latch’ that prevents damage to the breast.

Mums can also engage with LatchAid’s AI-powered chatbot, which will answer questions at any time of the day or night, or speak with LatchAid's in-house specialists when they need 1-2-1 expert support.

LatchAid’s growth has been fuelled by multiple Innovate UK grants, including a Women in Innovation Award, won by Chen in 2021.

Innovate UK EDGE Innovation and Growth Specialist, Kathryn Green, persuaded her to take up the opportunity and provided critical appraisal of her application.

“I knew the award was particularly competitive and that the pass rate would be even lower than normal Innovate UK competitions, so Kathryn’s support was really important,” says Chen. “She helped make my application as simple, persuasive, compliant and powerful as possible, while ensuring my passion shone through.

“The £50k grant has been pivotal in helping LatchAid launch and the award has also helped to bring me out as a leader, someone who can also inspire others to solve the biggest societal problems.

“Since the grant funding guidance, Innovate UK EDGE has provided much needed support for our product launch and our B2C and B2B strategies, helping us to get off the ground.”

Innovate UK EDGE will continue to provide support as the LatchAid app gathers momentum, revolutionising women’s relationship with breastfeeding. 

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