The Nifty Cup: $1 Feeding Cup Can Save Millions of Infants
Starvation and food insecurity are just a couple of sadly familiar international calamities.A lesser known one is the inability of infants to nurse due to feeding disorders, health issues, maternal death or sickness. They are at great risk for starvation or malnutrition.
A simple $1 reusable cup was designed to address the needs of these infants. It’s called Nifty Cup and it could save babies who are unable to suck and 7.6 million preterm infants in Africa and Asia once this simple $1cup hits the markets later this year.
The NIFTY cup, which stands for Neonatal Intuitive Feeding Technology, was the brainchild of Michael Cunningham, who heads craniofacial medicine at Seattle Children’s Hospital. After witnessing children with special needs lose out on nutrition because they couldn’t feed properly, he came up with the idea for the 40 milileter cup, according to PATH, a nonprofit that helped develop the concept. “We just knew that there had to be a simple innovation that could be life-changing for this population,” Cunningham said in a statement.
A mother can squeeze breast milk directly into the cup, which has a unique reservoir and flow channels, which allow infants to sip breast milk at their own pace. The device increases optimal milk intake in the shortest time and minimizes spillage.
Christy McKinney, a clinical assistant professor in oral health sciences at the University of Washington and a co-principal investigator on the NIFTY cup project, explains that the design puts the infant in charge.
“They pace the feed because they’re the ones deciding through their jaw movement and their tongue movement when to bring more milk into their oral cavity. That helps the infant be more participatory in the feeding experience,” McKinney says.
Without proper pacing, the infant is at risk for aspirating the milk, spitting up or out a rush of liquid, not to mention the spillage that can occur. About one-third of breast milk is spilled during a cup feed, which is significant when we’re talking about nine to 12 feeds a day.
It is estimated that 7.6 million preterm infants a year could be saved in Africa and Asia. Plus, a recent Lancet study found that elevating the breastfeeding practice to near global levels would prevent 823,000 children under 5 from dying each year.
Breastfeeding has also been shown to curb obesity rates, improve IQ levels in children and help prevent ovarian and breast cancers in moms.
With a recent infusion of cash — and new collaboration — the NIFTY cup is expected to reach hospital workers in Africa by later this year .
In September, the project won a $250,000 award from a number of groups, including the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and USAID to fund research and development. At the Women Deliver conference in Copenhagen earlier this month,PATH and Laerdal Global Health, a group that develops products for low-income moms and newborns, announced that they would collaborate to bring the cup to market.