By YVETTE SAARINEN
Of the News-Register
The clever invention of two local mothers was born out of necessity. Their product, the Milk-Saver, should hit store shelves in July.
Helen Anderson, a registered nurse from McMinnville, was breast feeding her first child when she learned there are some annoyances that accompany this nurturing practice.
When one breast is let down to suckle the baby, the other releases milk as well. Mom has to use a nursing pad, which has to be discarded, or a towel, which has to be laundered.
"Half the laundry was milk-soaked towels," Anderson said. She often was covered with milk herself.
The worst part, she said, was seeing precious mother's milk being wasted. "I need to save this milk," she reasoned.
She figured she was losing about 8 ounces a day, enough for four feedings. So she started brainstorming ways to prevent that with her mother, Rene Callanan, an RN at the Willamette Valley Medical Center who breast fed all three of her children.
Like most inventors, they developed many prototypes, some laudable, many laughable. They tried contraptions made of everything from cardboard to clay before hitting on the right shape, material and function.
Then they went to an injection molding company with computer-aided drawing services and pitched their idea. Things picked up pretty fast from there.
Before long, they had the working model for the Milk-Saver, which they have affectionately dubbed the Milkie.
The Milk-Saver is a form-fitting reservoir that fits inside a nursing mother's bra. She positions it so her nipple fits inside an opening in the reservoir.
The Milk-Saver collects the leaking milk in the reservoir, or in a sterile bag if preferred. The milk can be fed to the baby immediately or transferred to a storage container for use later.
The 6-inch diameter Milk-Saver needs only to be dunked in warm, soapy water and left to air dry.
It's made of material approved by the federal Food & Drug Administration, and is certified to be free of the leachates phthalate and bisphenol A. A patent is pending.
The mother-daughter duo seeded the company with their own money. If pre-sales are any indication, they figure to see a return of their investment within six months after the product hits the market.
"As nurses, we are very excited to put a product on the market that will improve the health of babies and mothers," Callanan said. "Our mission is educating mothers and their partners about the lifelong benefits of breast feeding for themselves, their children and the environment."
The Milk-Saver lasts "forever," the pair said. When it's no longer needed, it can be recycled for use in other products.
Callanan ticked off several benefits: "Lower cancer risks for mom, higher IQ, stronger immunity and lower risk of obesity for baby, and that's just the tip of the iceberg. Breast milk contains everything a baby needs, and it's free."
She said, "We all want to reduce our environmental impact.
"When breast feeding mothers use the Milk-Saver, they save time, money, water and electricity by reducing the amount of laundry they have to deal with. Formula packaging will stay out of landfills if moms are able to breast feed for the recommended one to two years."
The U.S. Public Health Service calls for half of all mothers to still be breast feeding at six months post-partum in 2010, Callanan said.
Seventy-five percent of new mothers breast feed initially, but stop well before the recommended one year, she said. The most common reason is failure to produce enough milk.
The Milk-Saver addresses this in two ways.
First, the baby gets all of mother's milk. Second, by allowing the milk ducts to empty, mother's body gets the signal to produce a new supply.
With the Milk-Saver, mothers will be able to breast feed as long as they choose, while decreasing their impact on the environment, she said.
The Milk-Saver will retail for about $50. Orders may be placed online at www.mymilkies.com. For more information, call 971-237-9244.