Redwood City-based Naya Health has raised $3.9 million in seed funding to make a breast pump that is sleeker, quieter and more comfortable for moms than the devices already on the market.
According to married co-founders Janica and Jeff Alvarez, parents of three kids together, the startup wants to help women give their babies a breast milk diet for as long as they wish, with the least possible hassle.
According to several pediatric studies, babies fed with breast milk exclusively or primarily for the first six months of their lives experience lower rates of asthma, pneumonia, leukemia and other childhood illnesses compared to those who take formula exclusively.
And the World Health Organization recommends moms who can do so feed their babies breast milk exclusively for six months, then continue to give them breast milk for the first two years of their lives.
These are among the reasons why so many mothers opt to pump when work and other obligations interrupt time spent with their babies.
Workplace and public accommodations for moms who breastfeed have, in recent years, helped fuel the growth of companies like Philips Avent, Lansinoh Laboratories and others in the burgeoning breast pump market.
The industry is projected to generate $1.2 billion in annual global sales by 2020, according to forecasts from Grand View Research, Inc.
Naya Health’s new breast pump works using a water-based hydraulic system rather than a pneumatic, or air-based, one. Its suction is more efficient than that of today’s popular models, Alvarez said.
The piece of the Naya Health Smart Pump that attaches to a mother’s breasts also deviates from the old, hard plastic funnels that go with mass-marketed pumps. Its cups are softer, hospital-grade silicone, and structured to feel like a baby’s latching mouth would.
The pump also has smart features for the “quantified parenting” set. It senses how much milk a mom is producing, and gives her data about her milk production via a smartphone app. This should ostensibly help moms optimize their pumping schedules and avoid problems like over- or under-supply on a given day.
The Naya Health pump is still not available in stores. That’s in part because the company can’t sell and ship it to customers until it attains regulatory approvals from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
But a review process is in the works, the CEO said, and the item should be certified as a class II medical device within a few months.
Today, Naya Health opened up the possibility for customers to register to buy one at least — no deposit required.
Long-term, the company is planning a “pump it forward” initiative, whereby families who have wrapped up their breastfeeding and pumping can return their hardware to Naya Health or retail partners to have it cleaned and donated with new sterile attachments to women in need.