Physician assistant and lactation consultant Kate Spivak and healthcare consultant Max Spivak are a married couple who together have created a total game changer when it comes to breastfeeding. Their Laally (la-lee) Bridge is a one of a kind breastfeeding support aid. The bridge is designed to help with latching and encourage milk flow and production in mothers who need a little extra support and help feeding their babies.
Together, the Spivaks designed and created the Laally Bridge. It's made from a nipple shield and tubing. It's recommended use is for mothers who are struggling with breastfeeding, those who formula feed but still want the closeness, and women who welcomed a baby through surrogacy looking for skin to skin and to possibly start lactating.
Kate is a lactation consultant and has been running her own consulting business for years so she knows all about breastfeeding and the challenges that can come. So she knows what needs to be done to improve breastfeeding and what the market may have been missing. Kate herself struggled with breastfeeding despite being so well versed in the subject. This is where the idea for the Laally Bridge came in.
Together, Kate and Max have two children and run this new venture together while balancing a hectic family life. We had the wonderful opportunity to chat with both Kate and Max. They told us all about the Laally Bridge, how it works, and how they got here.
Baby Gaga (BG): Before Laally, what did you both do for a living?
Max Spivak (MS): I was a management consultant in healthcare provider and pharma spaces at McKinsey and Company
Kate Spivak (KS): I was and still am a PA. We self-funded our business so we need to keep our head above water financially. Plus, I love being a PA and practicing medicine.
BG: Tell us a little about yourselves. Where are you from? How did you meet? How many kids? Why the bridge?
MS: I was born in Leningrad in the USSR. My family immigrated to the U.S. in 1991 – like many Russian Jews, we came to Brooklyn, NY.
KS: And I am from Norilsk, Russia – one of the most polluted cities in the world. My parents went there for work opportunities since it was very difficult in Russia back then. I came to Brooklyn when I was 11. Actually, Max and I lived two blocks from each other for a while but we never met then. We met at work, at a pharmacy – Max was the manager and I was getting credits for my PA program. The rest, as they say, is history. We now have two kids, Matthew and Allison, they’re incredible.
BG: Please explain how the Laally Bridge works. Where did the idea come from for this product?
KS: Conceptually, the Laally Bridge incentivizes a baby to latch to the breast. The more the baby is at the breast the more milk a mom can produce. It’s a win-win.
Mechanically, the Bridge allows parents to deliver pre-pumped milk or formula directly to the nipple. Instead of giving the baby supplement via a bottle, our device allows parents to do it at the breast. This teaches a baby to latch. It can help moms increase their supply. Finally, it encourages skin-to-skin time.
The Bridge consists of a thin silicone cover that is placed over a nipple. The silicone cover has a built-in channel and tubing in a one-piece design. Extensions and syringes of different sizes can be connected to the Bridge. Milk or formula travels from the syringe, through the extension and directly to the tip of the nipple. Basically, we are bringing milk to the nipple when there isn’t any or not enough from mom, in hopes that mom’s milk will flow shortly.
The idea came from my work as a lactation consultant and PA in Ithaca, NY. Lactation consultants frequently use nipple shields and tubing separately but this method is very difficult for parents to use on their own. The idea was to create a way for parents to do this seamlessly and easily on their own so they can stick with it and be successful. It’s a solution for all moms that are having issues latching their baby at home and considering supplementing with a bottle.
BG: How did breastfeeding work for you, Kate? Do you use the bridge?
KS: Breastfeeding was incredibly hard for me! Despite being a lactation consultant, a PA and having a Pediatrician mother-in-law – I had latch issues, I had supply issues, I had mastitis. It didn’t become easier with the second baby, I had mastitis 4 times with him and an abscess!
It’s funny you ask about Bridge use with our children. Our second baby, Matthew, was hospitalized with viral meningitis on Day 5. During our hospital stay breastfeeding him was challenging because of how ill he was. Giving him frequent bottles at the hospital led to breastfeeding problems when I got home. We used the Bridge to bring him back to the breast. It worked. That’s actually where we got many of our action shots on our website! It’s also how we became so convinced that we created something of value for society.
BG: How did you manufacture the first one?
MS: We bought nipple shields from all brands, ordered a ton of silicone glues and played arts and crafts. We 3D printed molds at our local library for $5. We baked the shields together in the back of a pick-up truck because of the fumes. Once we tested hundreds of units and designs, we went out to find a manufacturer. We discussed the project with 33 different companies. Finally, I came across a specialty LSR company that was willing to risk it to try it. They are now our trusted partners. We’ve gone a long way since our outdoor baking days.
BG: Why would a woman need a bridge? Where are they sold?
KS: We hope that women don’t need the Bridge but the reality is such that they likely will. The American Academy of Pediatrics, the “AAP”, recommends that moms exclusively breastfeed for the first 6 months. That means providing the baby only breastmilk via breast or bottle. In the U.S., 25% of moms or 1 million moms per year, will meet the AAP guidelines. 75%, or 3 million per year, will supplement the baby with formula using a bottle. We think any parent that decides to go to a bottle with breastmilk or formula – should try the Bridge first. There are many reasons we see parents choose to supplement via bottle – some of the most common include: latch issues, supply issues, pain or doctor instructions.
On a slightly different note, the Bridge can also be used to help induce lactation and to get non-birthing parents an opportunity to breastfeed. It can also be used for moms that have already switched to exclusive bottle use but want to have some skin to skin time. This is particularly true for moms whose jobs require a lot of travel and hours.
MS: The Bridge is sold on laally.com and at a few boutiques across the country – for now.
BG: What has been the feedback? How many have you sold?
KS: The feedback has been amazing! It’s what keeps us going on this crazy journey. We have doctors using it in practice, lactation consultants using it regularly in their toolkit and parents using it for simple breastfeeding fixes or supplementation needs. The Bridge gets the babies to latch – what happens after is up to the parents, their support network and their healthcare providers. That said, we’re always here to help even after the latch.
MS: Since the end of April, we put about 600 Bridges into the market. We’re very proud of that accomplishment.
BG: How exactly does the bridge help breastfeeding?
KS: The Bridge helps start the breastfeeding process when moms are experiencing issues in the beginning. It also helps parents that experience supply issues once they get breastfeeding going. Lastly, it serves as a way to avoid bottles when you have to give pumped, extra or donated milk.
BG: Did either you have a history of running a business and selling a product?
KS: Max and I operate my lactation consulting practice since 2015, but nothing of this scale. This entrepreneurship experience has been eye-opening.
MS: I do have some entrepreneurial and business experience. In college, I was a Stubhub-like ticket reseller, paying my fraternity brothers to help me purchase tickets to concerts and sporting events. Back then I decided to go to Wall Street instead of pursuing an entrepreneurial path. I reentered the entrepreneurial game by running retail pharmacies in the NY/NJ area – and finally, after business school, I worked at McKinsey and Company where I learned a lot about healthcare, strategy, and commercialization. We’ve never sold a product that we created from scratch though.
BG: What are your plans for Laally and the bridge? Do you have other products in the works?
MS: We have global plans for the Bridge. We think it can increase global breastfeeding rates – we think it can even help entire economies where breastfeeding is a national priority. This tool helps resolve all kinds of breastfeeding issues.
KS: We do have other products in the works. First, there’s a lot we can do with the current Bridge. We need to make more sizes and more variations of the product. Second, we have a few products in mind that will empower parents and make their lives easier in a simple way.
BG: How is it running a company as a couple with two young children?
KS: Insane. It’s very difficult to separate work and family. At certain points, Max and I had a really hard time doing that. Recently, it’s been a lot better. We found ways to connect at Laally and disconnect from Laally. We do date night every month on the 12th. Weekends we try to fill with family activities, but we do also work at the weekends. There is no choice.
MS: Very high highs and very low lows. Entrepreneurship is a never-ending journey. I feel I can’t disconnect for the weekend because there is always more work to be done. That obviously takes a toll on us as a couple – but like Kate said we’re doing well managing it. We have a lot of help from our parents with taking care of the kids. Without them, we wouldn’t be able to do this. Plus, Kate is a rockstar
BG: Who does what for Laally?
KS: My role as the CEO is to represent the company publicly, to work with Max on strategy and direction and to be “the expertise” in the space.
MS: I take care of the operations, finance and marketing side of the business. Also, sometimes I serve as Kate’s executive assistant.
BG: What do you want the Bridge to do for women?
KS: Our goal is to empower, enable and educate parents. We want the Bridge to be a tool to help parents succeed. We hope to remove judgment from breastfeeding. Parenting is hard enough as is.
BG: Is there anything else you want people to know, either about you, the bridge or Laally?
KS: Changing behavior is hard. We need to find supporters, researchers, professionals and organizations who believe in this idea as much as we do. We know the Bridge works and we know we can impact global breastfeeding rates by giving parents simple options to resolve issues.
MS: Laally as a name comes from La – ally. We want to be an ally to all parents Also, our daughter is named Allison – so that’s kinds of cool.
Thanks for talking with us! The Laally Bridge seems amazing! We hope many women find it helpful on their breastfeeding journey.