As a biomedical engineer specializing in medical systems design, Andrea Ippolito SM ’12 understands the health care industry inside and out—but that didn’t matter as an exhausted new mom weighing feeding options for her daughter.
“No one prepared me for that. I had never felt so broken in my life,” she says.
But her professional and personal experience did teach her one thing: Postpartum women often lack clinically vetted, nonjudgmental feeding support.
“OB-GYNs just don’t have time in their appointments. You’re lucky if you get one appointment at six weeks postpartum. And pediatricians? Their job is baby. Their job is not mom and baby,” she says.
Our goal is to provide inclusive support nonjudgmentally, no matter how you feed your baby.
In response, she launched SimpliFed, a telehealth platform of maternal health providers such as lactation consultants, nurses, and nurse practitioners, who provide infant feeding support covered by health plans at no cost to families, as mandated by the Affordable Care Act.
“We saw a huge opportunity in the market,” says Ippolito, a graduate of MIT's system design and management program. “Lactation consultants are the gold-standard experts in feeding, and we vet for ones who are nonjudgmental and inclusive.… Our goal is to provide inclusive support nonjudgmentally, no matter how you feed your baby.”
Importantly, providers are expert in coaching safe preparation and use of formula and donor milk, not just breastfeeding. SimpliFed currently works with more than 50 providers and continues to grow. Her ultimate goal is to “democratize” the feeding process, so all women have access to supportive, ongoing feeding care.
“When I had my first daughter, it was one of the biggest moments for me: Wait a second. This is a clinical specialty. There are health professionals who are experts in this, and health plans are required to cover it under the Affordable Care Act. Most of my peers did not even know this existed,” she says.
The Ithaca, New York–based platform launched in 2019. In early May, it closed $6M in its seed round, which she says is an indication that platforms that support women’s health are taken seriously by investors.
“It’s a testament to moms mattering. Women’s health matters. I get teary thinking about it. The tide is changing with the investment community,” Ippolito says about the milestone.
SimpliFed contracts with commercial health plans and Medicaid, Marketplace, and TRICARE, which serves 150,000 pregnant and postpartum military families across the United States. SimpliFed also offers a free appointment when a family signs up whose health plan is not in network yet.
Innovation comes naturally for Ippolito. She’s a onetime MIT Hacking Medicine codirector and a former Presidential Innovation Fellow with the White House Office of Science and Technology. Prior to SimpliFed, she cofounded Smart Scheduling, a schedule optimization service acquired by athenahealth in 2016.
But this project feels deeply personal to her as a working mother of two young children who knows the struggle and the sleepless nights firsthand. In fact, all her full-time employees are women.
“We work with parents during transitions, whether that transition is back to work, transition to complementary foods, positioning or latching, or soreness or mastitis. Whatever it is, we work with you,” she says.
Expectant parents can sign up with SimpliFed online to book a prenatal education appointment. Once baby arrives, SimpliFed’s providers work with families to support feeding goals over the course of at least six appointments of 30 minutes each.
It’s a crucial service, especially in an era of formula shortages and rising postpartum depression rates, and in light of updated recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics that physicians support breastfeeding for two years or more.
“Breastfeeding and baby-feeding support is a lot like mental health care in that it is critical to get access to ongoing care covered by your health plan. Mom matters. Her mental health matters. Her physical health matters,” Ippolito says.
Photo: Evan Montgomery.