History of the Hazelbaker™ FingerFeeder
In 1988, I stand in the parking lot of our Phoenix meeting place, lamenting the absence of an effective device for finger feeding. My colleague, Anne, commiserates. I become excited. I look over at Anne and say “Wouldn’t it be great if we could have a device that fits in one hand that has an attached tube ?” I trace the path of the tubing on my hand. She nods. “No more NG tubes. No more hard to push syringes. No more leaking. No more fumbling.”
Suddenly, a full color image pops into my head. I can barely contain myself. “I think I have an idea.” She nods her understanding. “I’ve got to go to the drugstore to see if I can find parts.” I hop into my car and drive to the drugstore closest to my home. I find travel bottles of several shapes, colors and sizes. I look for anything that could serve as tubing. When I get home, I take my goodies out of their plastic bag and start to play. My three daughters crowd around me asking questions. ”Mommy’s trying to create a feeding device” is all I can say. I am fully absorbed in the task at hand.
I play and play for weeks trying different sizes and configurations. In the mean time, I contact a major pump company to see if they might be interested in designing and manufacturing a device for finger feeding. They are not. I then contact Medela. Some interest on their part: I feel elated. The idea gets kicked upstairs. Richard Weston, the then National Sales Director, becomes excited about the project; his baby was recently in the NICU and could have used a device like the one I was proposing. We enter into negotiations. This process takes many years, a team of lawyers and lots of discussion.
Brian Silver becomes my engineering contact at Medela. I send him rough sketches and my actual amateur prototypes. He sends back sketches and asks many, many questions. His engineers are busy and Medela has several new products in their design queue, but they commit themselves fully to the task of designing a quality product.
Months pass. We work through design glitches, design and execute an efficacy study, apply for the patent and plan marketing materials and strategies. I work as a consultant to assist with these processes. Finally we have a usable prototype; and it looks remarkably similar to the original picture that flashed into my head on that hot day in 1988! I am informed at this point that Medela wants to put my last name on the product. I feel uncomfortable about this idea but their confidence that this strategy will make the product more memorable quells my concerns.
We move forward on contract finalization and make plans for product launch. The ILCA conference provides the perfect opportunity. The year is 1993.
The launch goes well and we get down to the business of selling product and gathering feedback about its use in the “real world” of lactation consulting. The product gains favor gradually. 10 years fly by. The Hazelbaker™ FingerFeeder has its devotees. Medela decides to change its marketing strategy and so chooses to discontinue the device. We begin the process of transitioning from Medela’s distribution to mine, according to our contract. I form a special little company, named after my two precious grandchildren (both who needed some finger feeding to transition them to exclusive breastfeeding,) to handle the manufacturing, marketing and distribution of the Hazelbaker ™ FingerFeeder.
I start climbing a steep learning curve. I know nothing about manufacturing, or FDA regulations. It takes me five months to get up to speed. Orders for product pour in. Finally, our marketing pieces at the ready, we receive our first packaged batch. In one frenzied week, we satisfy all our backorders. It is now March 2008. By The next year, manufacturing and distribution go well and we receive multiple inquiries from around the world. My learning curve becomes steep once again. Selling overseas has its challenges.
I choose to let-go of the United States distribution and enter into an agreement with Hygeia so that I can concentrate on overseas marketing and distribution. Hygeia, provider of breastpumps and other breastfeeding devices, is a good match. Their expert and experienced team knows just how to position the device in the market and get it into the hands of the people who need it the most while being able to handle the increasing market demand.
I invite you to acquaint or reacquaint yourself with this simple yet effective specialty feeding device that has helped thousands of breastfeeding infants the world over.