People might scratch their heads when looking at the two 31-year-old, childless men who founded Pacify, an app that connects new moms with nurses, lactation consultants, and dietitians. But George Brandes and Ben Lundin, who have known each other since preschool, were both raised by mothers who were doctors who raised them to pursue medical-related careers.
Prior to co-founding Pacify, Lundin worked in a healthcare practice at McKinsey & Company, while Brandes worked for Jackson Hewitt to help the uninsured access health coverage. These experiences helped open their eyes to the struggle that new moms face when every sniffle from their newborn feels like a medical emergency.
“We had a lot of friends who were having kids and going through these issues, and we were like, there’s got to be a better way to access advice than just the run of the mill 1-800 number on the back of your insurance card or Googling it,” says Brandes.
After seeing how many parents brought their children into the emergency room for non-emergencies, Brandes and Lundin wanted to find an alternative for new moms to have their concerns addressed without going the expensive and time-consuming route of heading straight to the ER.
“We started just trying to keep moms out of the emergency room, and very quickly found that a lot of those visits are nutrition or breastfeeding related,” says Brandes.
By partnering with Melanie Silverman, a dietician and lactation consultant in California, Brandes and Lundin started building out a network of lactation consultants, nurses, and dietitians. After launching in the summer of 2015, that network has grown to over 200 providers who operate on a flexible, Uber-like system through the app.
“It works like Uber without the constraints of logistics,” says Brandes. “They don’t have to be anywhere physical. It’s simply picking up a video-enabled call so when a mom calls our network…we send out push notifications to our providers, and it’s a first come, first serve response.”
Though Pacify’s initial goal was to have every call answered in three minutes or less, Brandes says their average wait time is closer to 23 seconds. Parents on the Pacify app can dial into one of three lines—nurses, lactation consultants, or dietitians—and within minutes, have an answer to their question from a medical professional. The app also provides the medical professionals with another way to use their skills. Once they’ve alerted the app that they’re available to answer calls, they can answers as they please, and Pacify pays them for the time they spend on the phone—which Silverman says is typically ten to 30 minutes per call.
One of the most newsworthy aspects of the app, however, is providing access to lactation consultants. With 16 years of experience as a lactation consultant herself, Silverman knows how difficult it can be for moms to book some face time with a professional—even though breastfeeding is a time-sensitive issue.
“Moms call me all the time and say, ‘I’d like to make an appointment to see you,’ and I can’t see them for three or four days, and that puts the milk supply when you’re a new mom at risk, because time is of the essence.”
According to Silverman, consistent and frequent breastfeeding is crucial when new moms are trying to establish a milk supply. If a mom us unable to get her baby to breastfeed, she could risk her milk supply—especially if she’s waiting days until she can get an appointment with a lactation consultant. But with Pacify, the lactation consultants are just a phone call away.
A subscription to the app is available on a month-to-month basis for $39, and Pacify also sells a three-month “baby shower gift” subscription for $99, a six-month subscription for $159, and an annual subscription for $199.
Because Pacify is also interested in targeting low-income parents who may not be able to afford the price of a subscription, Pacify has also partnered with the DC Department of Health’s Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC). Through this program, low-income DC moms who participate in WIC can access Pacify’s services for free at Mary’s Center for Maternal & Child Care.
“We feel very strongly that the need is pretty consistent, and because of that, we’re very committed to figuring out how to make this available and affordable for all moms,” says Brandes.