EL DORADO HILLS, Calif. – Watching twins Kim and Joe now, it's hard to imagine they were once fragile preemies.
Born 2 months prematurely, their mother did what she thought was best for their survival.
"I found myself needing to use a breast pump for a very long time," Dr. Stella Dao said.
Dao was an emergency room physician at the time.
"Using a breast pump where I had to take my clothes off and had to be in a private place just wasn't practical," Dao explained.
She didn't want to compromise her kids' nutrition or the care of her patients.
"In the first two months I was thinking to myself: the system could be better," Dao added.
She gave me an ultimatum," husband Dan Garbez said. "She said either you figure out a way to pump with my clothes on or I am not going back to work."
Like any smart husband, Garbez listened to his wife. He gathered a team and invented Freemie, a patented system that allows moms to pump breast milk hands-free using collection cups.
"This is a design to slip into your clothes and be worn inside your bra," Dao explained.
Freemie was a true family affair. Dao tested one of the early prototypes with her youngest son when he was born in 2006. It worked. But the product didn't launch until 2009, which was frustrating for the team. Getting FDA approval was harder than they envisioned.
"You want to get it out there as fast as you can because I know everyday it's not out there, there's people we're not helping," Garbez said.
What's revolutionary, they say, are the collection cups which can also be used with other pumps. Their pump, they claim, is quieter than others.
The couple have no doubt the Freemie has widespread global appeal.
"We firmly believe you're looking at the first generation of the 21st century breast pump," Garbez said.
So far, thousands have sold. Distribution agreements are in the works to make it available in other countries and production has been ramped up..
"In the last few months we've done more business than in the previous four years," Garbez said.
Right now, Freemie is made in China. As the company grows, the hope is it will soon be made in the U.S.
A breast pump invented by a El Dorado Hills doctor allows moms to breast pump hands free. (Thursday, April 24, 2014) News10