Woman behind breastfeeding support LatchAid is recognised on Innovate UK blue school plaque

Dr Chen Mao Davies Latchaid

A woman who created CGI technologies for Oscar and BAFTA-award winning films (including Gravity), who won an Innovate UK Woman in Innovation Award for her unique breastfeeding support app last year, has now had her achievements recognised by Innovate UK.

The UK’s Innovation Agency has launched a twist on the blue plaques seen in the UK. They are being installed at schools across the country to recognise the achievements of some of the female innovators who have won its prestigious Women in Innovation Award.

LatchAid deploys 3D interactive and Artificial Intelligence technology to help mothers and mothers-to-be learn vital breastfeeding skills.

Dr Davies moved to the UK 18 years ago, and had to learn to speak English. She spent 15 years undertaking conducted commercial and academic research and development in computer graphics and computer science.

But LatchAid, was born out of Chen’s own struggles as a new mum.

“I was determined to breastfeed my child,” said Chen, “it’s natural, it’s bonding, it gives the baby antibodies, but nobody told me how difficult and painful it could be.“Midwives are under huge pressure and sadly, don’t always have the resource to provide one-to-one breastfeeding guidance throughout a mother’s stay in hospital. By the time I left hospital, I was already damaged and in pain.”

“It went on for days with mastitis and thrush; mum and baby crying during feeding time and I just felt such a failure – I couldn’t feed my own baby. The baby’s weight dropped, and I developed postnatal depression.”

Chen pulled through with the help of an understanding health visitor and other mums who had suffered similar experiences – some of whom still carry regrets years later.

“As a technologist, I was frankly shocked by the lack of innovation in this space. We had once a week peer support groups, which were useful – but what about 2am when you’re lonely, in pain and at your lowest point?”

The LatchAid platform uses 3D technology, Artificial Intelligence (AI), virtual peer support groups, and online “live” experts to help teach women breastfeeding skills and provide them with personalised expertise and emotional support on a 24/7 basis.

LatchAid Kemble Primary SchoolDr Davies, LatchAid CEO captured children’s attention with pictures and clip of visual effects from Disney and Marvel movies she worked on, as part of an event held to unveil her purple plaque at Kemble Primary School.

Emma Morrogh-Ryan, Headteacher of Kemble Primary School, said: “This plaque is a reminder to everyone at our school of what they can achieve if they set their mind to it. As the parent of a current pupil, we’re delighted to recognise Chen’s success, and are excited to follow what comes next.”

Chen told children at a special whole school assembly how she came to the UK in 2002 with two suitcases, little spoken English, and knowing no one. But she was armed with the courage and determination to succeed. She went from working on visual effects for blockbuster movies to tackling a public health issue, by founding LatchAid based on her own experiences of breastfeeding.