Transcript: Helping Moms With Baby Feeding and Breastfeeding Support

This is a text transcript from The First Time Mum’s Chat podcast. The episode is called Helping Moms With Baby Feeding and Breastfeeding Support and you can click on the link to view the full episode page, listen to the episode and view the show notes.

Helen Thompson: A recurring theme that regularly comes up on First Time Mum’s Chat is the importance of planning for your pregnancy and postpartum period, with the right mix of people you need to support you, you need to start putting this together now and not make the mistake that so many do, leaving it until after they’re pregnant or have given birth.

Trust me, by then it’s too late and you’ll face a big struggle finding the time and energy for these tasks. I think Amanda Gorman, who I interviewed in episode 65, Preparing for Childbirth, Creating a Birth Plan, put it perfectly when she said it takes a village to raise a child.

If you are at this time in your life, then you’ll want to listen to this week’s guest who can help you find your village and provide essential help to you. Andrea Ippolito used her experiences from the challenges she faced during her own pregnancy and postpartum period to found a much needed service, which provides moms with a range of services to deliver virtually.

You’ll hear Andrea share the top 3 issues relating to breastfeeding that moms come to see them about, why it’s important to have a lactation consultant support you during pregnancy and as part of your postpartum care team and so, so much more.

Hi Andrea, and welcome to First Time Moms Chat. I’m delighted to have you here and I’m excited to hear about how you help families. Can you start by telling us a bit about your background and your journey?

Andrea Ippolito: Well, so honored to be here, my name is Andrea Ippolito and I’m the CEO and founder of SimpliFed. My background is I’m a biomedical engineer, worked with medical devices for several years, then went to graduate school at MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology), where my research was for the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff and my research was on how do you use telehealth to improve access to care to behavioral health for service members faced with post-traumatic stress.

So I’ve been working in telehealth for over a decade. I founded my first company out of grad school as well that eventually got acquired by a health IT company called Athena Health, and then went to work in the federal government at the Department of Veterans Affairs and did a lot of work in how we can improve the culture at the VA to better serve veterans and their families in the US and at the tail end of that was pregnant with my first daughter and we moved to upstate New York, left the federal government, and I started teaching and that’s when I got exposed to this baby feeding arena and I just saw how challenging baby feeding was, whether you’re breastfeeding, formula feeding, pumping.

Helen Thompson: Yeah, baby feeding can be a real challenge. I’ve seen moms struggling with either baby-led weaning or breastfeeding or, bottle feeding and all of that. I respect moms who have gone through it and I think a lot of people don’t realize that.

Andrea Ippolito: Yeah, they don’t and you know, that’s a lot of what we do at SimpliFed is we work with families during pregnancy and then postpartum via virtual breastfeeding and baby feeding support, fully covered by health plans in the US but we also work internationally as well. But one of the things that people don’t realize, to your point, is how hard baby feeding is, no matter how you feed your baby and so we do a lot of work to do prenatal education on what baby feeding looks like. But you’re not feeling that pain yet, right? It feels like a later problem when you’re pregnant.

Whereas in those first couple of weeks, this becomes what is your focus, right? That and sleep or getting more sleep. But we would argue that the reason you’re not sleeping is cuz the baby’s waking up to be fed and so we like to do a lot of preparation work with pregnant parents to set expectations on what’s to come.

Helen Thompson: Yeah, I think that’s so important to prep mums beforehand because A lot of them, as you say, they think, oh this will be really easy, I’ll be able to breastfeed or if I can’t breastfeed, I can just go to the bottle but it’s not always that easy cuz sometimes babies don’t put on weight and as a mom, you think you’re doing something wrong, but in fact you’re probably not doing anything wrong, it’s just probably something that you need to be tweaked with people like you.

Andrea Ippolito: Well, exactly, and I’m not a provider myself, but I work with a network of providers and yeah breastfeeding and baby feeding, it’s so connected to mom’s health and it requires clinical experts, and the good news is there are clinical experts that are there to help you and not a lot of people realize that, that (1) there’s support that’s supposed to be covered by your health plan at no cost to you for free, at least in the US and then secondly, there are providers that are there to help you and these providers are breastfeeding experts, but they also know a lot about formula and breast pumping and while breastfeeding is ‘natural’, there’s not much natural about it, especially if you’re a first time mom, right, you’ve never done this before and it’s hard to figure out and it’s challenging and can be painful, but the thing is, it’s not supposed to be painful and so this is where clinical experts can come in and work with you to make sure that it goes as well as possible and you reduce your pain and get it working for you based on what your goals are.

Helen Thompson: Yeah and what are some of the health issues related to breastfeeding that you’ve come across?

Andrea Ippolito: So we actually analyzed the data from a subset of our appointments and the top three issues that people came to us with are latching, pumping, questions about pumping and they also had a lot of concerns about low milk supply. So those were the three biggest concerns.

But on top of those, we see a lot of parents come to us with clogged milk ducts and why clogged milk ducts can be really scary. Well, first off, they can be very painful and they’re exactly what they sound like. There’s clogs in your milk ducts and what happens is when that milk gets clogged it becomes prone to infection, right?

Just like anything, if you had milk on the outside that was stuck in something, it would probably get all smelly and icky. Well, that’s what can happen inside your breasts and so, we do a lot of work to proactively prevent clogged milk ducts, or as soon as a mom is getting clogged milk duct, how do you work with that and there’s been some latest new guidelines on how you best treat that but what you’re concerned about is if that clogged milk duct becomes infected, it can turn into mastitis, and mastitis can escalate very, very quickly. So my own personal experience, one of the first times I had mastitis, I went from having a 99 degrees temperature to 103 – 105, and I started getting chills and you get a little delirious at that point. And it all happened within a 3-4 hour period for me and mastitis is one of the main reasons that postpartum moms are presenting to the emergency room and it can result in hospitalization if not treated quick enough and so it can get very scary with mastitis and the good news is once you get mastitis, you can use antibiotics and that can make it go away pretty quickly but the key is getting support before to prevent it from happening. If you do end up having mastitis then getting those antibiotics as soon as possible to prevent those really terrible symptoms that can ensue.

Helen Thompson: Funny enough, I was brought up on a farm and I remember hearing the vet saying that a lot of the cows had mastitis. So that’s how I first realized about mastitis and I didn’t actually realize that until you’ve just told me that moms can get it as well.

Andrea Ippolito: It’s so interesting and it’s funny you bring that up. So I live in central New York, pretty rural area and there’s a ton of dairy farms here and at the university here, there’s a ton of researchers in our animal science department and at the vet school that focus on mastitis and cows and dairy animals and I always give a chuckle while that’s super important, I’m almost like, why isn’t there more research on this topic with women, right? This has such a huge impact on our health, and it’s just another example of women’s health being left behind, right? Yet here in the US the federal government has put a ton of research presenting mastitis and dairy animals but what about humans? What about women!

Helen Thompson: Yeah, it’s interesting I don’t know about here in Australia. It happens, but I’m not knowledgeable enough to say anything about that here, but it’s just very, very interesting. My younger sister when she breastfed, she got very cracked, sore nipples and I don’t know whether this is still used today, but she put cabbage leaves on it because she was told that cabbage leaves really helped and I don’t know how true that is? Can you do that to help with cracked nipples? Do you know?

Andrea Ippolito: So I know there is some mythology about cabbage leaves out there, but again, this is just another example of, we need more research and we need more diagnostic tools to be able to support parents, right? 85% of women in the US start off breastfeeding and yet only 0.02% of our National Institute of Health (NIH) budget, which is the main healthcare r&d (research and development) arm of the US, goes to researching breastfeeding and lactation. And so we often don’t know if any of these treatments are effective and evidence-based, but there’s a lot of mythology and perhaps some of them are effective. But until we have data and real data to support it, it’s hard to know. And parents in particular, moms are left guessing and that’s not right. And we need to do so much more to invest in women’s and maternal’s health across the world to be able to provide data to families to make the best decisions for them and their family.

Helen Thompson: Yeah, I know cuz in India and all those places they have a lot of family support. They have the grandmothers, through generations going through and helping their daughters and they have a community, a village community and I think we’ve lost that. We’ve lost that sort of village community for supporting moms, which I think is a great shame and that’s partly why I started First Time Mum’s Chat because I wanted to connect with people like yourself who are able to give that support to moms. Cuz I think it’s so important.

Andrea Ippolito: I totally agree, right. That village has been lost and right now, and especially after the pandemic, moms are left figuring things out on their own and where do they turn, Dr. Google and there’s a lot of stuff on Dr. Google that is often not evidence-based or could be giving parents wrong advice or could be making moms feel bad and that’s why I love this podcast and because it creates conversation so moms feel that they’re not alone. There are others that are experiencing this and coupled with that, one of the big things that we like to do is educate folks that there is a clinical provider, an allied health professional called the lactation consultant, that no matter how you feed your baby are there to support you and they should be an integral member of your prenatal care team during pregnancy and your postpartum care team and they’re often left behind and forgotten and so a lot of the work that we do is educate parents that you shouldn’t be toiling away by yourself with nipple pain, with clogged milk ducts, with a painful latch, trying to figure out how the breast pump works, trying to figure out how to introduce bottles and formula and what that looks like. Do you have someone that you can turn to? It’s supposed to be in the US at least, free, but I also know that across the world, this is something that is provided by healthcare systems at no cost to families.

Helen Thompson: Which I think is great and it’s good to be able to do that. What would you say is the best way to navigate to help support moms to get this information? As you say, Mr. Google isn’t always right. Mr. Google is frequently wrong. How can parents find you and help get support?

Andrea Ippolito: Yeah, absolutely. And thanks so much for asking this. So for us, come to our website, and you click the button, start getting care, you fill out a super short form and then one of our peer moms that we call an ally or if they’re not a peer mom, they’re a social worker, but they’re there to help navigate baby feeding and that peer mom ally then works with you to help get you scheduled for an appointment. And whether you’re in pregnancy or postpartum, we support you at no cost to you covered by health plans. And we work with you on whatever your goal for baby feeding is and so come check out our website and we’ll get you access to care.

We also do baby feeding classes as well. We have a preparing for baby feeding during pregnancy, we have a postpartum class, we have a breast pumping class, we’re about to have a partner’s class. So mom you shouldn’t be doing this alone. Your partner should be up to speed to help support you.

But coming to us, we get you care you need and then that peer mom ally gets you scheduled with a lactation consultant that’s board certified internationally. They’re called International Board Certified Lactation Consultants or IBCLCs, which means that they can practice across the world and so come to our website, you’ll get introduced to a peer mom ally, and then they’ll connect you to a provider and they’ll schedule you at a convenient time .

Helen Thompson: And what if you don’t have a health fund? If you are a mom, or parent who can’t afford a health fund. how does that work with your company?

Andrea Ippolito: Yeah so with our organization, the good news is, at least in the US, is that breastfeeding support is required to be covered by health plans for free. So we help you navigate that and if for whatever reason your health plan is a big pain in the bum, we provide free classes to everyone. If you are overseas, similarly, we provide free classes to everyone. We do also provide appointments out of pocket but we try to prevent that from happening cuz we wanna make sure that folks have access to this very needed service.

Helen Thompson: Thank you I just wanted to clarify that because I know in America some people don’t have health funds, because they just can’t afford it cause it’s so expensive and some health plans don’t always cover what you expect them to cover either.

Andrea Ippolito: I agree it’s such a maze to navigate and the good news is that SimpliFed has contracts with commercial Medicaid and TRICARE health plans so we serve families of all different types of health plans and you’re absolutely right, it’s a huge disservice in the US because a lot of folks aren’t covered for whatever reason or are afraid to reach out for help and so we work with folks to get them access to service that they need and deserve.

Helen Thompson: Thank you. That’s good to hear cuz I know it’s much needed, not just people in America, but all over the world. Do you have any final thoughts you would like to share with moms out there who are just getting started on their parenting journey?

Andrea Ippolito: Well, the advice I have is don’t be so hard on yourself and there is a ton of things you can do to prepare. That being said, it’s going to be tough and you’re gonna do great, so don’t be so hard on yourself. But the biggest piece of advice I have is reach out for help. My mom told me this when I had my first daughter. Don’t be the hero, reach out for help and it goes back to what we were talking about is there used to be a lot more community. And so surround yourself with folks that are on your team and maybe that is someone like a lactation consultant, maybe it’s a friend that can come by and help do laundry, maybe it’s just being able to give your baby to someone for a half an hour so you can go upstairs in your room and sleep or maybe just to read a book or go on social media. Just something to unwind, but don’t be afraid to ask for help and advocate for yourself along the way.

And we hope that you consider baby feeding experts like lactation consultants part of your both prenatal support team, but also most importantly, your postpartum support team.

Helen Thompson: I think that’s a good tip cuz I think a lot of moms do feel afraid, they’re struggling by themselves. So thank you I’ll definitely put all those things that you’ve given in the show notes. So thank you for being here, I’ve learnt so much about what you do and I’m hoping that it will support first time mums, cuz I think it’s a valuable support so thank you Andrea, for being here.

Andrea Ippolito: Thank you so much for having me, and thanks so much for what you do in building this community for first time mums.

Helen Thompson: I really like the much needed support that SimpliFed provides moms and I like their approach of making it accessible to all families. I highly recommend checking out Andrea’s website and social media, and I’ve included links to these in the show notes, which can be accessed at

Next week I’ll be talking all about teething, which is a topic I have not talked about since way back in the very first episode of First Time Mum’s Chat.