Oscar-winning founder of motherhood app wins innovation award

The founder of LatchAid, a FemTech startup using innovative technology to revolutionise breastfeeding and early parenting support, has won the prestigious Women in Innovation award.

Dr Chen Mao Davies started LatchAid after facing her own struggles with breastfeeding, pain and subsequent depression. She realised that mothers needed maternal support fit for the 21st century; a smart, on-hand, interactive way to learn vital and practical breastfeeding skills.

And with the pandemic currently paralysing the predominantly face-to-face support model in place, the app is more necessary now than ever.

LatchAid supports breastfeeding mums and their families through interactive 3D technology, Artificial Intelligence, virtual peer support groups and live healthcare specialists to combat, amongst other things, problems experienced with the latching technique. The app prides itself on being inherently accessible and democratic, empowering women everywhere, regardless of their economic or environmental circumstances. 

Currently in beta trial mode, 800 people registered on the LatchAid app within the first 48hours, with over 600 active users in 14 countries across 6 continents.

Announced to coincide with International Women’s Day, the Women in Innovation Awards from Innovate UK aim to showcase female founders, co-founders and senior decision makers with exciting, innovative ideas and ambitious plans that will inspire others and make a significant contribution to an urgent societal need.

Reflecting on the award, Dr Davies said: “Given how vital LatchAid is for so many new mothers and their families, I am extremely honoured to receive this recognition of my work developing the app from Innovate UK.” 

An expert in Computer Graphics and Animation, Dr Davies was part of the Oscar and BAFTA-winning Visual Effects team behind blockbuster films including Gravity and Blade Runner 2049. However, her life changed dramatically after giving birth and experiencing tremendous breastfeeding challenges.

“Searching for answers, I discovered that what I was going through was far from uncommon,” she said. “What I found was that a chronic lack of support to mothers learning to breastfeed was causing huge anguish across the world.”

Combining lived experience with her technical expertise in cutting-edge technology, Dr Davies resolved to find a solution to this deep-rooted problem.

“Around 90% of new mums stop breastfeeding before they want to because of pain or lack of support,” explained Dr Davies.

“Sadly, the UK has the worst breastfeeding rate in the world because of the inconsistency in professional help, which can tragically lead to both physical and emotional pain.”

She added: “Thanks to LatchAid, families experiencing these breastfeeding challenges can access help when they need it and advice when they want it. I hope the Innovate UK platform will raise our profile even further and help us connect to the millions of mums who are suffering in silence, giving them a community they can share their experiences with and expert advice they can trust.”

Co-developed with leading infant feeding, baby development and maternal health experts, the business has established strong connections with multiple healthcare organisations and is in talks with 3 NHS trusts across the UK about an app partnership. LatchAid has won multiple awards and grant funding from Innovate UK, EU, Q Exchange, and UnLtd and will launch on the Apple AppStore in spring 2021.