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Andrea Ippolito is a mother and CEO and Founder of SimpliFed, a comprehensive platform providing virtual baby feeding support services to improve both maternal and child health across the US. She directed the WE (Women Entrepreneurs) Cornell program and testified in front of the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Small Business to advocate for diverse innovators in America. Previously, Andrea served as a Presidential Innovation Fellow based out of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and General Services Administration.
Andrea speaks with us about SimpliFed and the current baby formula shortage in the United States.
Matrescence: You’re a mom and the Founder of SimpliFed. Can you please expand on how your own motherhood experience influenced the start of your business?
Andrea: Becoming a mom had a huge influence on me founding SimpliFed. My background is in Engineering and working in Government. After having my first daughter, Mae, I had a ton of trouble breastfeeding. I also saw first hand how hard it was, and in particular, I also saw how under the Affordable Care Act, we’re all supposed to get access to support: breastfeeding support and baby feeding support, covered by our health plans. And as I dug underneath the surface, I learned that most health plans weren’t covering this. Because of my background in health care and government, [I] wanted to tackle this problem comprehensively. I also saw that it felt like there were two camps: breastfeeding versus formula, but the reality is that it’s not a “versus”; it’s NOT breastfeeding versus formula. It’s [what] works for you to feed your baby. And so, [I] wanted to reduce that stigma and provide non-judgmental care services because that’s what I was feeling. I’m both a formula feeding mom and a breastfeeding mom. I’ve done both. Most people do both, and whether or not you do both, or one or the other, it shouldn’t matter. It’s whatever works for you and your family. And so, personally experiencing that with my first daughter, Mae and then with my second daughter, Louisa, has been huge fuel to founding SimpliFed.
Matrescence: What is SimpliFed's mission?
Andrea: SimpliFed’s mission is to allow every family to feel good about feeding their family. We want to be that trusted provider that they can reach out to starting during pregnancy, to help educate them, learn about their baby feeding options, and then after baby’s born they can reach out to us. We provide ongoing support. We are a 100% virtual model so it’s super accessible at no cost to them covered by their health plan. Under the Affordable Care Act, you’re supposed to get this service covered and so, we work with parents during pregnancy or postpartum to check your coverage. If we’re not in network with your health plan, we advocate on your behalf to get this covered as you should under Federal Law. So we work with families to understand their feeding goals, whether that is formula-feeding, breastfeeding, combo-feeding, chest-feeding, pumping, donor milk - whatever is your goal! We work with you to help you reach them. As issues arise, we help you to overcome them. As transitions occur, whether that is a transition to complementary foods, a transition to formula, a transition to work, whatever those transitions are, we work with you one-on-one to help support you and your goal, fully covered by your health plan, virtually, and at no cost to you.
Matrescence: What is the current state of baby feeding in the United States?
Andrea: Right now the current state of baby feeding in the United States is very fractured and stigmatized, and unfortunately [doesn’t] meet parents where they’re at, and doesn’t help support them in reaching their goals. Right now we often see formula pitted against breastfeeding. When the reality is that most families do both, or even if you do one over the other, whatever works for you is what should be best. In particular now, we’re faced with a massive baby formula shortage. In the United States, we need to do so much more to support families to create resilient baby feeding systems. It shouldn’t be breastfeeding versus formula, it’s whatever works for you. We need to increase access to support for families covered by their health plans for breastfeeding and baby feeding support in locations [that are] convenient for them. And, we need to make affordable, high-quality formula that parents feel great about giving their families because it’s incredibly safe. And [while] whatever works for you should be best, unfortunately right now, parents feel stigmatized or shamed for choosing certain options. Work environments don’t support breastfeeding. Parents feel ashamed that they’re using formula, and it shouldn’t be that way. Formula is great, it’s high-quality, it’s nutritious, it’s safe. And so is breastfeeding. So whatever works for you is what IS best. No matter how you feed your family, you should feel great about it.
Matrescence: What is a message of hope that you can give to a mom/family who is feeling challenged in their baby feeding journey?
Andrea: If you’re feeling challenged right now in society with the infant formula shortage, or you’re struggling with postpartum, or you’re in that last trimester of pregnancy and are feeling so tired, so fatigued, and exhausted, I'm here to tell you that you matter. YOU MATTER. And your baby matters, and your family matters, [but know that] YOU matter. If you need support, reach out for help. If you need space, give yourself that space. There is support available with things like baby feeding, no matter how you feed your baby. And you always need to do what’s best for you. You. Matter. Thank you for all that you’re doing for yourself, thank you for all that you’re doing for your family and your baby. You are incredible.