Bridging science, parents’ needs and technology to help moms breastfeed for longer
Estimated reading time: 6-8 minutes
Late one night in 1982 while helping his wife Celia prepare a bottle for their new-born son, Edward Atkin, who worked at his father’s rubber company in England, had an idea. He noticed the bottle had a narrow neck that made it difficult to fill. It was also awkward to hold and had a hard, unnaturally long teat. What if he could design a bottle that was closer to natural breastfeeding that fitted more comfortably in the hand and could easily be filled and cleaned? Two years later, Avent’s first baby bottle, designed by Edward, was launched. It was a breakthrough innovation; not only was it easier for moms and dads to use, it was scientifically proven in 1994 by The Childhood Nutrition Research Centre to reduce colic symptoms in babies.
I never grow tired of sharing this wonderful story and it is at the heart of the meaningful innovations we’ve been developing ever since.
Today, we know that breastfeeding gives babies the nutrients they need to grow and develop. We also know breastfeeding moms often face a number of physical, emotional and practial challenges, so it’s not always easy for them. Our innovations aim to help moms breastfeed, and for longer. We want them to feel supported. This means making high quality products that are, effective and as close to nature as possible.
Our three pillars
To achieve this, we combine science, parents’ perspectives and technology. This is something we as a company and I really believe in; we are a consumer brand and a health technology company — for us it is about working tirelessly to bridge these worlds and bring them together.
Science and trusted, clinical partnerships
When we develop our products, we look at existing scientific evidence around the mechanics of breastfeeding and then perform clinical studies to add to our evidence base. Most of our clinical research focuses on breastfeeding, infant feeding and infant development, which we conduct in partnership with a global network of trusted scientific experts, research institutes and healthcare professionals. Over the past 25 years, we’ve conducted numerous clinical trials that sit at the heart of our innovations.
One of our longest-standing relationships is with The Childhood Nutrition Research Centre. In 1994 they conducted our first clinical trial, into the anti-colic qualities of our Classic Bottle, and to this day do an incredible amount of research into the physiology of breastfeeding and breast pumps, feeding bottles and teat design. Recently, we worked with the Centre to understand through 4D ultrasound technology how babies move their tongues during feeding and how the movements change in response to different types of teats. We’ve used the results of the study to design our latest breast pump. While traditional breast pumps only use vacuum to pump milk from the breast, our improved collapsing technology is designed to mimic infant suckling and harnesses the physiology of the breast by ensuring a fit for 99.8 percent of women worldwide.
Our aim through our innovations is to help moms breastfeed, and for longer. We want them to feel supported. This means making products that are high quality, effective and as close to nature as possible.
Dr. Pearl Vyas
Medical Advisor to Mother & Child Care, Philips.
Real insight into parents’ needs
Our hugely talented internal research group balances the science behind our innovations with our own direct research with moms, giving us a deep understanding of what moms and parents need and want, what works for them, and what is comfortable and convenient to use. We want to learn from parents’ experiences as they know our end users — babies — better than anyone. We work to make sure our solutions fit into their lives easily and conveniently: What will help them reach their breastfeeding goals? What are they looking for in a product?
To gain this deep level of understanding we host focus groups with parents, while our nurses and researchers speak to parents in their homes. We like to know how babies feed in their natural setting and for parents to feel like they’re taking part in something that is very practical and real, rather than sterile and systematic. Our dedicated teams ensure each innovation is inspired, tested and loved by moms before it’s released.
Technology — our third pillar
We have internal teams dedicated to uncovering and integrating the latest and greatest material science into our product development process, ensuring our products are of the highest quality for babies and families. Every product needs to pass through a number of tests before it can be put on the market and must meet evidence-based healthcare standards, so we harness and invest in the best technological advancements.
Uniquely, our three pillars — science, parents’ perspectives and technology — are all reflected in the abilities and skills across our Mother & Child Care and wider Philips team. The people who work here are moms and dads themselves and if you can think of the specialist, it’s very likely that they’re represented here — from doctors and engineers to communication and quality experts.
Always improving breastfeeding outcomes
This month I’m travelling to China to introduce our new physiology-based breast pump to healthcare professionals. The Philips Avent Natural Suckling Twin Electrical Breast Pump mimics an infant’s suckling and moves like a baby would at the breast. Its design is based on an immense amount of work we’ve conducted over many years with our research partners and in-house with moms to understand breast and infant feeding biomechanics. I’m looking forward to launching it, not just because I’m excited to reveal the functions of the product but also because it has the potential to make feeding more comfortable for moms. That way they can breastfeed for longer, embrace every challenge and love every moment — just as Philips Avent’s founder, Edward, set out to do for Celia and their son all those years ago.
 Lucas A, St-James-Roberts I. Colic, crying, fussing, and feeding. In: Colic and Excessive Crying. Report of the 105th Ross Conference on Pediatric Research. Colombus, Ohio: Ross Products Division, Abbott Laboratories, 68-77, 1994.
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By channeling her passion for healthcare into her drive for meaningful innovation, Dr. Pearl Vyas (M.D.), brings her expertise in bridging science, innovation and marketing. As a Senior Medical Advisor in Philips, she facilitates partnerships with some of the world’s most renowned institutes and professionals in pediatric nutrition and feeding to drive thought-leadership for the brand in the maternal-infant health space globally.
Working in collaborative, multidisciplinary teams, she supports the business environment by navigating complex medical topics and generating insights for health-tech focused initiatives that ultimately affect the health and well-being of families worldwide.