For as long as there have been humans, there has been human milk. As it happens, according to Greek mythology our entire galaxy originates from breastmilk.
Although people have been breastfeeding for millennia, breastfeeding doesn’t necessarily come naturally, especially in our modern world where common birth practice, industry influence and cultural phenomena are at play.
Adhering to a mentality where breastfeeding is viewed as completely natural, is one of the most “harmful and hurtful” beliefs because it assumes that lactating people don’t need support, Founder/CEO of Orolait Ana Rojas Bastidas, CLC explains.
“The majority of women are not able to fulfill their [infant feeding] goals, and that’s unbelievably sad,” Rojas Bastidas says.
“That’s where innovation comes in,” she continues.
Rojas Bastidas’s company Orolait, is a breastfeeding apparel company at its core, but this summer she released a one-of-a-kind lactation education tool: the LactoPRO Trainer.
The LactoPRO is an anatomically-correct, tissue-mimicking human breast used for demonstrating hand expression. The device features a realistically-sized areola, nipple, and six lactiferous ducts and effectively ejects a human milk-like or colostrum-like substance. The breast is available in various skin shades too.
In April 2020, Rojas Bastidas shifted Orolait operations to help provide Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs) to a hospital in Haiti alongside a Houston-based company that creates surgical organs. With Rojas Bastidas’s vision and entrepreneurship and the company’s patented technology, the LactoPRO Trainer came to fruition.
Rojas Bastidas and the team are working to create a model with inverted nipples as well as fashioning a breast that can develop clogs and mastitis.
Rojas Bastidas emphasizes that she is always working to make her contributions more affordable and accessible.
“Having great things that are not accessible to the community are not helpful to anyone,” she says.
Through her movement PowerToPrevail and other projects, Rojas Bastidas has been a force for body positivity, cultivating self worth and supporting modern motherhood. This work led her to complete the Lactation Counselor Training Course (LCTC) earlier this year.
“As I was going through the course and tried to teach hand expression, I became frustrated by the lack of options to demonstrate it accurately and in a constructive way,” she reports.
Evidence-based lactation care emphasizes a hands-off approach. Couple this with the idea that infant feeding is a learned behavior and in American culture we don’t grow up seeing lactating breasts and breastfeeding, hand expression is a terribly abstract practice to teach.
The LactoPRO helps fill this void.
“Innovation in the lactation space has been slow and overlooked, so this is really exciting for me,” Rojas Bastidas says. “I’ve created something for the private sector that’s going to push public perception.”
She likens her invention to the evolution of professional lactation care services; maternal child health advocates took a stand and refused to let women suffer, she explains. Like lactation care, Rojas Bastidas has created something that validates people’s stories and experiences.
Rojas Bastidas’s influence stems from her experience as a new mom and the way she viewed her evolving body.
“I didn’t realize that the way I viewed my body was impacting so much of my life including my breastfeeding journey,” she says.
So many parents sympathize with the conundrum of breastfeeding in public spaces for instance. To do so discreetly often means lifting your shirt and exposing the midsection.
It seems vain and trivial, Rojas Bastidas acknowledges but when you multiply it by the millions of moms who experience challenges like this, there’s got to be a solution.
“Don’t be afraid to tackle whatever problem you see,” Rojas Bastidas encourages. “Innovation is for anyone.”
Rojas Bastidas’s apparel serves as functional fashion. Simultaneously, her pursuit celebrates the bodies that have been largely misrepresented and often altogether censored.
“The absence of bodies sends a broader message that those bodies don’t exist,” she explains.
“It makes every battle so much harder, but that’s what keeps driving me. I should have just closed up shop because this is so hard, but I’m going to make as many people as uncomfortable as humanly possible,” Rojas Bastidas says of being a female innovator in health and wellness advocacy.
She adds that by showing the public what bodies actually look like, it frees us, elevates us and empowers us.
“Lactating individuals deserve to be seen, heard and helped.”
Rojas Bastidas has a lot to offer on her website including her shop, lactation counseling services, a member forum and blog. Check it out here.