Supplementary nutrition for premature babies based on breast milk

Table of Contents What does Babylat do?Subscribe to our Newsletter!How did Babylat come up with

Reducing the mortality rate of premature babies by giving them supplementary nutrition based on human breast milk proteins instead of animal proteins. That is the future, according to Swiss company Babylat. CEO Zina Yudina explains how she plans to put this into practice.   

CEO of Babylat Zina Yudina © Student Project House, ETH, Zurich

What does Babylat do?

“Premature babies develop a protein deficiency when they ingest non-enriched breast milk. To remedy this, animal protein is currently added to their diet, which is not healthy. Sometimes this leads to crib death. Basically, these should be proteins from breast milk. The technology to do that on the spot is lacking. This is where we come in. We have built a prototype that can extract proteins from breast milk. Without raising any ethical concerns that involve exploiting women in third world countries, for example.”

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How did Babylat come up with this idea?

“The first idea came about after I gave birth to my second child. I wasn’t able to breastfeed this baby as much as I had done with my first because I was doing a postdoc. My baby didn’t want the milk I pumped so I froze it. Breast milk contains important nutrients and it helps to build up the baby’s immune system. Why would I feed artificial milk when my body was making exactly what my baby needed? The main question was how I could help other working women who were facing the same problem to prolong the beneficial effects of breastfeeding. So, the idea for a protein extraction device was born.”

“It is going to be a machine which will push the breast milk through. It then separates out the water, fat and proteins. Those proteins can be added as supplemental nutrition to the other food the baby is already receiving. The mother’s own breast milk can be used for this purpose, but we can also work with a breast milk bank. Based on the feedback from the medical community, it was predicted that this would make a great match for developing such a device to optimize the supplemental nutrition of premature babies.”

What is the main challenge Babylat is facing?

“There is enthusiasm, but that is predicated on a fully functioning product. The idea is new, it’s not being done yet and consequently costs a lot of money. That money isn’t there. I have put my own money into the company and have also received a subsidy, but it involves so much. For example, research data has to be collected to substantiate it scientifically, the product has to be completely safe which means it has to be accredited. It is also emotionally demanding to do this alone. I’m up against big companies with a lot more resources who do not want newcomers on the market.”

How do you envisage the future of Babylat?

“I would love to see this device used in every hospital with neonatal intensive care units to lower the mortality rate among premature babies. Right now, children are dying because they lack nutrients. In order to achieve my goal, I still need partners and investors who, like me, believe in the urgency of our product.”

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