Nextiles embeds sensors in Lilu breast pumping bra

  • August 9, 2021
  • Steve Rogerson

New York companies Nextiles and Lilu have combined technologies to provide real-time data so new mums can monitor their lactation status.

Nextiles makes smart fabric technology and has expanded its modular data capture platform by partnering with women’s health brand Lilu to bring the next level of breast pumping technology to new mothers.

Nextiles works with partners across a range of industries to develop personalised, fabric-based sensors to power clothing for consumers’ everyday needs. The two National Science Foundation (NSF)-backed companies have joined forces to spread awareness of the mental and physical challenges new moms endure.

The companies are using Lilu’s breast pumping massage bra and integrating Nextiles’ sensor technology to create performance data for new mothers and the broader healthcare industry.

Nextiles’ patent-protected manufacturing process blends traditional sewing techniques with printed circuit boards to embed flexible sensors directly into fabrics for the breastfeeding-friendly bra. Using fabric such as nylon and spandex, the breast pumping bra is designed to be comfortable and is machine washable.

The bra will collect data to provide mothers with insights about their lactation, to help them reach their breastfeeding goals. The data captured from the bra and custom-embedded circuitry will be powered by Nextiles’ newly launched software development kit (SDK), allowing Lilu to own and build custom algorithms for the femtech industry that focus on empowering mothers, so they can be better equipped to reach their breastfeeding goals and ensure their babies’ health.

Lilu’s user app will implement Nextiles’ SDK, and will display a plethora of datasets to help moms optimise their breastfeeding and breast pumping routines and increase their milk production while wearing the hands-free and self-massaging bra.

According to the CDC, only 25.6% of infants are exclusively breastfed in the first six months, which is the minimum amount of time the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends. This is low, but it makes sense, as 70% of moms work outside the home and often go back to work six to eight weeks postpartum.

As moms go back to work and are away from their babies, they begin to pump and constantly stress and ask themselves if they are producing enough milk. Having the data provided by the Lilu bra will provide moms with peace of mind to continue to breastfeed and take control of their pumping.

“We’re excited to announce this partnership today because it not only shows the diversity of our technology but also by teaming up with industry experts like Lilu, we can solve real problems with our fabric-based sensors, in this case for new mothers everywhere,” said Nextiles CEO George Sun. “Working closely with their apparel and technology team, together, we’re delivering user-friendly technology to new moms who struggle with breastfeeding, while simultaneously shedding light on the obvious gap in femtech products.”

Adriana Vazquez, Lilu CEO, added: “We created Lilu to offer a line of smart bras designed specifically to help new moms adapt to breastfeeding more seamlessly. This demographic of new moms tends to be overlooked in the technology space, but when done correctly technology like this can be a tremendous help. It not only can make pumping more comfortable, but with the addition of Nextiles’ data-driven technology, that added insight will provide users with a sense of reassurance as well.”

Lilu is a recipient of an NSF Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grant, which is awarded to start-ups with high impact technologies. Nextiles, an NSF Innovation Corps programme participant, will serve as a subawardee and license its core technology to Lilu. The partnership between Nextiles and Lilu aims to help breast-pumping moms tackle the early stages of motherhood and the everyday life demands that their new-born brings by providing a faster, easier and smarter pumping experience.

“NSF is proud to support the technology of the future by thinking beyond incremental developments and funding the most creative, impactful ideas across all markets and areas of science and engineering,” said Andrea Belz, division director at NSF. “With the support of our research funds, any deep technology start-up or small business can guide basic science into meaningful solutions that address tremendous needs.”

The Lilu bra powered by Nextiles will be available for early testers later this year.

Founded in 2018, Nextiles is a materials science and manufacturing company, developing personalised, fabric-based sensors to capture biometric and biomechanics data. It is headquartered in Brooklyn, New York.

Lilu was founded by two MIT and Penn engineers who recognised that new moms have been vastly ignored by technology, especially when it comes to postpartum health. The company decided to build a product to make breast pumping more efficient and help more moms reach their breastfeeding goals.