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Tampa startup says focus on infant health could save $300B in medical costs annually

Margie Manning

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Lauren Wright, founder and CEO, The Natural Nipple

The Natural Nipple, a Tampa company that wants to improve the health of babies, is about to launch a key test of its product.

The company has created an infant feeding solution and biotech breastfeeding experience that will get a trial run with a group of moms this month, said Lauren Wright, founder and CEO.

“The Natural Nipple is designed for seamless, stress-free breast and bottle feeding with the only nipple researched and designed to mimic a mom’s shape, feel and flow,” Wright said at Tampa Bay Wave’s TechWomen Rising Pitch Night. The Natural Nipple is one of 13 women-owned companies participating in the current Tampa Bay Wave TechWomen Rising accelerator cohort.

Wright is a nurse practitioner who was studying for a doctorate when she discovered that babies were suffering health consequences because they weren’t getting their mother’s milk.

“The National Science Foundation recognized this and awarded me $50,000 to better understand this problem, because by providing babies breast milk for just six months, we can save the lives of 1 million children, cut $300 billion in preventable medical costs annually in the U.S. alone, as well as improve the health of the environment and access to care,” Wright said.

Bottles are the No. 1 barrier to breast-feeding, her Pitch Night slide presentation said.

“Bottles create nipple confusion. Direct breastfeeding then takes longer and is more painful. Mothers are tired and confused. Milk production slows. The baby-mother immune exchange fails,” the presentation said.

The Natural Nipple has created a physical, digital and data solution.

“The Natural Nipple is novel, because for the first time you can pick from four shapes that actually represent the maternal population,” Wright said. “ In addition to creating a physical infant feeding solution, we’re designing an app with lactation support to help moms understand how to use direct breast versus bottle. And finally we’re adding a biofeedback mechanism, so at six months you can test the gut bacteria and immunity of your child, to actually tell parents how to feed best. This can be continually done to maximize the lifetime value of our customers as well.”

There’s a big market for the product.

“Our total accessible market is expected to grow to $68 billion in five years and the baby care and femtech industry is promising, expecting to be a $175 billion total market opportunity,” Wright said.

In addition to the business-to-consumer test with moms this month, Wright is focused on the business-to-business market, including hospitals. The Natural Nipple can improve outcomes and lower costs, saving a typical neonatal intensive care unit $50 million a year by reducing the drip rate in bottles. The company is conducting a case study to demonstrate the cost savings for hospitals as well as improved health outcomes.

Wright has assembled an advisory team that includes Matt Hermann, senior managing director of Ascension Ventures, a healthcare venture fund focused on the medical device, healthcare technology and healthcare services sector.

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