Feeding Babies Can Be Complicated—But an Alum’s Firm Can Help

Andrea Ippolito ’06, MEng ’07, is founder and CEO of SimpliFed, which has landed deals with major insurers

By Linda Copman

Mothers have been breastfeeding their babies since the dawn of humankind—so it must be easy, right? Those who haven’t tried may be surprised to learn that it can be trickier than it seems.

Andrea Ippolito

“Breastfeeding is hard,” says entrepreneur and Cornell faculty member Andrea Ippolito ’06, MEng ’07. “There are no days off, and you have to do it often to keep up your milk supply and protect your health.”

Research backs that up. According to the CDC, about 83 percent of new moms start out breastfeeding—but by six months, the percentage who do it exclusively drops to about 25 percent.

The decision to stop can weigh heavily on moms; failing to meet their own expectations around breastfeeding can contribute to postpartum depression.

Ippolito—who has two daughters, aged four and one—is founder and CEO of SimpliFed, a virtual platform that offers support to clients in feeding their babies. In May, Forbes reported that the company had raised $6 million of funding in its latest seed round.

SimpliFed’s services are now available to all enrollees in TRICARE—which provides insurance for military families nationwide—and to Medicaid enrollees in Colorado. The Ithaca-based firm has also finalized agreements with Medicaid and private insurers in New York.

“Breastfeeding support is a mandated benefit under the Affordable Care Act, but many health plans were not in compliance with the federal law,” explains Ippolito, who discovered this underutilized benefit when she was struggling to feed her first daughter while working at Cornell, where she teaches courses in engineering and business.

While breastfeeding may seem straightforward, the choices and challenges can be overwhelming for exhausted parents: positioning the baby, storing milk, managing pain, choosing whether to pump milk or supplement with formula, establishing a pumping schedule, and more.

While breastfeeding may seem straightforward, the choices and challenges can be overwhelming.

SimpliFed helps families get the services they need covered by their insurance, at little or no cost to them. For those who choose to breastfeed, a lactation consultant designs an individualized feeding plan that works for both mom and baby.

To help new parents succeed, SimpliFed provides one-on-one coaching and support during the first weeks after birth. Services are virtual, reaching families where they are—whether on a military base or in a rural community with limited access to lactation consultants.

(In summer 2022, Ippolito and her company found their expertise in particular demand amid the nationwide formula shortage that was driven by pandemic-era supply chain challenges, among other issues.)

The team also helps parents navigate major transitions of their baby’s first year, including introducing formula, incorporating other foods, and weaning. “We provide inclusive support,” she says, “no matter how you feed your baby.”

How Prevalent is Breastfeeding in the U.S.? At some point during infancy: 83% Exclusively for first 3 months: 45% Exclusively for first 6 months: 25% Ongoing at 12 months of age: 36% Ongoing at 18 months of age: 16% Source: CDC data on babies born in 2019.

Prior to founding SimpliFed, Ippolito spent nearly two decades in healthcare, including graduate research at MIT on using telehealth systems to serve military service members affected by PTSD. She also directed the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Innovators Network, where she oversaw the creation of a $10 million program to help VA employees do a better job of supporting veterans and their families.

Her previous work on the Hill includes serving as director of the W.E. Cornell program, which mentors women PhDs and postdocs (as well as those who are female identified or nonbinary) on tech entrepreneurship.

Ippolito credits her own mother with showing her how to juggle parenting with a full-time career: Mary Valla Ippolito ’77 is a Human Ecology alumna who helped design the first spacesuits for women.

Says Ippolito: “My mom was an incredible role model who showed me that—even though it’s hard—you can make it work.”

Published September 8, 2022

Photo provided; infographic by Cornell University.


Comments

  1. Barbara Redden Leamer, Class of 1957

    I think this is a wonderful idea! Mothers are not staying long enough in the hospital after birth to get nursing going, and there isn’t always a lactation consultant available. Having this accessible online will let the new mother learn and be supported right from the beginning.

  2. Stephen DeVos

    Congratulations Andrea on a needed service to both the insurance industry and Moms!

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