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New product raises concerns about women breastfeeding in public

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By Sandra Dobson and Emilia Demitri, CNN • Updated 15th August 2011

Designers Sonia Harikoss and Lilesha Gumri have unveiled “COVID,” a new breast pump that lets people observe a mother nursing her baby discreetly. “If mothers are going to be feeding on the side of the road in a public place, we have to give them a solution to the problem of being filmed,” said Gumri.

Unlike other pumps that can potentially record a woman’s nipple and heartbeats, COVID instead records heartbeats of the baby.

“The whole idea is to give someone a second person to feel, feel the bond between the mother and the baby,” says Gumri. “We are looking at a video that gives the audience a feeling of the mother, but of the baby as well. “

Signing in and out, users can invite others to join them by calling an elevator up and down. The video could also be captured as a looping, dramatic effect to bring the mother’s milk to light. (That said, “Waterproof glass makes the bottle very uncomfortable to drink from, and it is also very hard to clean,” says Gumri.)

The creators are hoping to raise the fund of $1.3 million through Indiegogo to bring the product to market. Other contenders for the funds, which can be earned through pledges ranging from $40 to $10,000, include London-based start-up Poetic Machines , which makes an app called Golden Milk Pod, which records women taking water from a tap, and recreates their breast milk as an edible gift.

A new mom in Shanghai suffers permanent scarring after childbirth. How can the new technology prevent this? A new mom in Shanghai suffers permanent scarring after childbirth. How can the new technology prevent this?

Health-conscious Brazilians are seeking better breast pump alternatives, including one manufacturer that includes recycled plastic, rice husks and milk. The firm says it has sent over a million liters of one pump to the country so far.

Asked about breastfeeding around kids, Gumri says they are “concerned for the safety of the mother and the child in public spaces, because we know that in our society people tend to ridicule women if they breastfeed, ” she adds.

The pump was born out of her struggle to breastfeed her daughter in a public space in Saudi Arabia. Harikoss saw no other solution to avoid revealing her breasts to others.

“I think we will need to find solutions that guarantee the privacy of mothers from any challenges,” says Gumri.

“COVID” can be used with pumping machines that are compact, portable and set up with video cameras, or even without a camera. So far, 50 women have given birth to babies while using the gadget.

“We are ready to accommodate the first experiences, but you know, some people need to train for a long time to learn the mechanism of the device, not to mention installing and using a particular pumping machine,” says Gumri.

Gumri says the biggest challenge for the company will be to convince women that there’s “an alternative, something that will do the same thing, but isn’t as intrusive, can’t be seen, and doesn’t cause bad press.”

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