Andrea Ippolito is the founder and CEO of SimpliFed. She sat down with Jessica Abo to discuss how she’s making virtual breastfeeding and baby feeding support fully covered by health plans from pregnancy to weaning.
Jessica Abo: Andrea, tell us about SimpliFed and who it helps.
SimpliFed is a virtual baby feeding and breastfeeding support service, fully covered by health plans and at no cost to you. We have a national network of providers, they’re lactation consultants that work with you no matter how you feed your baby — whether that’s breastfeeding, formula feeding, or pumping. We start working with new parents during pregnancy and then after the baby’s born we continue to help support them with latching, positioning, dealing with any pain, pumping and transitioning back to work. We work with health plans to ensure every new parent has access to support and we also work collaboratively with the healthcare system as well.
What inspired you to launch the company?
The story of SimpliFed is fully inspired by having my first daughter, Mae. She was born early, she was born underweight. I had no idea what I was doing when I was feeding her. And, I’ve never felt so broken in my life. I had a ton of trouble with breastfeeding, and I learned that I wasn’t alone: 85% of women start off breastfeeding, but most transition to formula. But the entire system was set up to be very fragmented — stigmatizing. And I learned that under the Affordable Care Act, you’re supposed to have access to baby feeding support – fully covered by your health plan at no cost to you. And as a two-time entrepreneur, I knew that this was a huge opportunity to redesign the care pathway to make it that much easier for families to get access to this care.
What do you want moms to know, whether they’re pregnant or they’ve just started their baby-feeding journey?
We want you to know: You’re not alone. And that help is there for you covered by your health plan. You should start getting support during pregnancy so you understand what to expect in those first crazy stressful weeks. You can get access to support from trained healthcare professionals: These are lactation consultants that have hundreds, if not thousands of hours, and they are these specialists in baby feeding. No matter how you feed your baby — whether that’s breastfeeding, formula feeding, or pumping — you got to do what’s best for you, and trust your instincts.
Policy-wise, what do you think should change and how can it change?
There are a few policies that need to change to better support American families. First off, we need honest-to-goodness paid parental leave. Giving birth – no matter how you deliver – is an insanely physical and emotional experience. And, we need that dedicated protected time to recover after it. We need universal childcare support. There’s free K-12 education available, but there’s very little support for childcare in those incredibly vulnerable time periods. So, we need universal childcare support for those zero-to-five years. We need enforcement of the Affordable Care Act, which mandates that health plans are required to cover support for breastfeeding and baby feeding, starting during pregnancy. The law exists, but no one’s enforcing it. So we need enforcement of that policy now.
Why do you think so many families don’t know that they have access to baby feeding support?
Many people don’t realize they have access to free baby feeding support because it’s not integrated within American healthcare. They also don’t know that there are trained professionals out there that can significantly help and relieve anxiety around the baby-feeding journey, and make it easier for new parents. And so that’s why companies like SimpliFed exist. We contract with health plans, commercial, Medicaid, TRICARE, so that families can get access to these services by trained professionals. And then we work together collaboratively with the healthcare system and get referrals so that it’s integrated with healthcare and part of your care regime.
Is there anything else that you want to share?
SimpliFed is a virtual service and it’s fully covered by your health plan — for free! So, if you or a friend is pregnant, or if you have a family or friend that just had a baby, send them our website – SimpliFed.com – so they get the care that is their right to have access to. It’s their legal right to have access to free baby-feeding care, and we want to be there to help them achieve their baby-feeding goals.