Parenting

YouMilk breastfeeding app: The sharing economy of suckling

By Kitty Knowles 27 February 2017
The Milk Bank App: Breastmilk sharing is fantastic news for British mums. Pic: iStock/158374092
Summary

YouMilk matches mums who do & don't lactate.

Mothers sharing milk is nothing new.

Some women produce too much – others feel guilt because they produce none.

Today however, New Zealander Vlad Sadovenko is bringing breastfeeding into the digital age: his YouMilk pair mothers up to help their babies live better.

His sharing economy app may currently in development, but it is already being trialled by lactation consultant and breastfeeding mums.

He might not have mammary glands himself, but he’s making ‘matches’ that matter.

We spoke to Sadovenko to find out more about YouMilk…

Kitty Knowles: How would you describe YouMilk?

Vlad Sadovenko: YouMilk is a social platform which simplifies the process of informal milk sharing – it’s for families who lack milk for breastfeeding and for women who have excess milk to donate.

KK: What inspired you to create the app?

VS: About a year ago, two of my friends became parents of beautiful healthy children, but it soon became obvious that neither of them were fully able to breastfeed due to lack of milk.

I suggested they look for an app and was surprised to find there were none for informal breastmilk sharing.

What problems do you want to solve?

At the moment, connections within informal milk sharing communities are made primarily on Facebook groups. Usually it’s a matter of first in, first served, creating a competitive environment and disadvantaging those who do not check the pages regularly.

On top of this, if the recipient needs information about the donor, their dietary details or any other preferences, they must ask for this sensitive information directly every time. This seems unnecessarily time consuming and potentially embarrassing.

Being neither a professional in the medical field, nor a direct user of the service, I feel like I am just trying to facilitate and simplify the process.

I did not create a product based on my own vision of the problem and then dump it on the market saying – use it! It was, and still is, a collaboration between families and certified lactation consultants.

What are the biggest benefits of using the app?

It is a controversial topic for some people, but breastmilk remains the natural first food for babies.

There is plenty of research on the benefits of using breast milk over formula: breast milk enhances sensory and cognitive development and protects the infant against infectious and chronic diseases.

Some countries allow milk to be sourced from so-called ‘milk banks’. In other cases, mothers turn to friends or relatives. With technological advances, they are more likely to to search the web for a source, bother people they barely know asking for help, constantly check sites for a reply, try to find donor next to their place and then sort out the delivery or pick up.

I want mothers who do choose to use breastmilk to feel less stressed and more confident in accessing human donor milk.

How does YouMilk work?

Firstly, users create free profiles listing their health, dietary and medical preferences.

Then, the YouMilk algorithm links donors and recipients based on this information, taking into account their proximity to each other.

Once profiles are matched, the sharing process is as simple as booking a taxi.

What progress have you made already?

Besides online observations and interviews with lactation experts, I’ve conducted surveys to learn more about what mothers feel and think, what difficulties they meet, and the features they would like to see on YouMilk.

Two beta tests with lactation consultants and breastfeeding mums helped shape YouMilk demo 3.0 – which will be released and tested next week.

During the process I got in touch with hundreds of people, and luckily I’ve got a private investor who is now backing me and covering development costs.

What milestones lie ahead?

Last week I was contacted by several milk banks which were interested in YouMilk and asked if it’s possible to incorporate milk banks into YouMilk, in order to simplify the process in those countries where milk banks are already established.

In the future, I’d like YouMilk to perform as a self-sustainable service, gaining funds from donations, in-app advertising and governmental or NGO support. These could be used to provide donors with milk storage bags and to maintain and improve the service.

What’s the big dream?

To launch the app and spread it globally.

The way we nourish our babies will inevitably affect the next generations, so at the risk of sounding overly ambitious, I would say:

YouMilk could help to change our future in a positive way.