Trinity Health of New England is partnering with startup company Nest Collaborative to help mothers of newborns with breastfeeding, the health system said today.
The Hartford, Connecticut-based system is offering Nest’s virtual breastfeeding consulting service across its three birthing hospitals (Saint Francis Hospital in Hartford; Saint Mary’s Hospital in Waterbury, Connecticut; and Mercy Medical Center in Springfield, Massachusetts) at no cost to the patient, said Dr. Walter Trymbulak, chair of Trinity’s Women and Infants Service Line.
While the Affordable Care Act requires insurers to cover some breastfeeding support services, many patients in the health system’s inner-city hospitals are uninsured, Trymbulak said.
“We have patients who have zero resources for something like this but want to attempt breastfeeding,” Trymbulak said. He asked Nest to offer it for free for these people and the company obliged. “They’re a brand-new company and doing what every other widget company is trying to do, which is trying to stay solvent and be viable,” he said. “I give them credit because they took a risk with us.”
Patients will have access to a lactation consultant with the ability to speak Arabic, English, Haitian Creole, Hebrew, Portuguese, Spanish, Urdu and Burmese, Trinity said. Nest has consultants available seven days a week across all hours of the day.
The breastfeeding-focused partnership comes amid a nationwide shortage of baby formula. According to the Center for American Progress, 43% of formula products were out of stock in May 2022, a massive increase from the average out-of-stock rate of 2% earlier this year.
While Trinity and Nest aren’t doing this project in response to the shortage, Trymbulak said virtual breastfeeding services can give mothers the support they need to go this route rather than relying on formula.
“As a society, we’ve become so dependent on formula,” Trymbulak said. “We don’t have the experience or expertise to support breastfeeding outside of special programs like this one. When you face a formula shortage like this and you’re so reliant on the man-produced product and it’s not available for whatever reason, you don’t have the ability to flex back to what’s normal and natural.”
According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, while 83% of mothers initiate breastfeeding when a baby is born, only half of women are still doing it at six months and less than 25% are doing it by the end of the baby’s first year.
Trymbulak also said that the cost of formula is a significant issue for parents, as it averages around $411 to $874 per month, according to SmartAsset.com. “If we can encourage our moms to breastfeed, it makes them more independent and gives them one more resource that is free,” he said.
Nest-Trinity is the latest partnership between digital health startups and health systems to improve the experience for women’s and maternal health service lines. Recent partnerships in this area have included Tia and UCSF Health, Diana Health and HCA Healthcare; Maven Clinic and Cleveland Clinic; and Oula and Mount Sinai in New York.
For Trinity’s breastfeeding initiative, Trymbulak said the health system will use a combination of virtual with Nest and an in-home service to help mothers.
“Telehealth is something we’re all getting used to and I think as we get more savvy with this technology, it will become easier for something like this to take place,” Trymbulak said.