When Eastchester’s Priska Diaz was bottle-feeding her infant son, Carlton, back in 2008, she noticed how much pain he was experiencing during and after feeding. After extensive research and consulting physicians, she learned Carlton was suffering because air was infiltrating the bottle and producing a lot of gas in his still-developing GI system. Luckily, Diaz has a background in design, having earned a bachelor’s degree at CCNY and a Master’s at Pratt, in addition to five years of health-and-beauty product design at L’Oreal. So Diaz went straight to the drawing board to come up with a solution.
She realized there were problems with both the conventional air-vent and plastic-bag systems, as each admits air into the bottle under certain circumstances. “My solution was to invent a baby bottle that works off a syringe-type system, with a plunger at the bottom of the bottle that pushes toward the nipple,” says Diaz, who incorporated her company, Bittylab, in 2010 but officially went to market in 2016. “As the baby provides suction, the plunger automatically moves up, pushing the milk up to the nipple, with no vacuum buildup.” Diaz adds that an ancillary benefit of her suction technology is that the baby can now drink from a completely upright position.
Though Diaz encountered resistance from domestic manufacturers, who declared that her groundbreaking liquid-delivery system wouldn’t work (“What do men know about breastfeeding, anyway?” Diaz laughs), a senior buyer at Babies R’ Us disagreed. “I used a breast pump to simulate a baby’s suction; when she saw the prototype in operation — which was literally slapped together with Krazy Glue and chewing gum — her jaw dropped,” Diaz recalls. “Then, she pointed to my ugly prototype and said, ‘Now that’s new and innovative!’”
Year of incorporation: 2010
Date to market: Feb. 2016
Initial capitalization: $740,000
1st-year sales: 100,000 units
Sales to date: 250,000 units
Retail price: $15.50 for a 4-oz. bottle with 2 nipples
$25.99 for a 4-oz. twin pack
$26.99 for an 8-oz. twin pack
With that powerful endorsement behind her, Diaz commissioned a proper prototype and went into production with a Chinese manufacturer that ships her product to a distributor in Bloomington, CA, that fills customer orders. Though Babies R’ Us has since gone out of business, such well-known companies as Walmart, Bed Bath & Beyond, buybuy BABY, Amazon, and Jet.com have stepped up as national retailers for Bittylab’s Bare Air-Free bottles, with more than 250,000 units sold to date.
Best of all, Diaz (who still operates Bittylab from her home) is currently working with what she describes as a “very well-known medical institution” to produce clinical studies en route to FDA approval as a certified medical device in the treatment of gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD, among other things.
“That my product might alleviate suffering for babies and their families makes all the hard work and sacrifice worthwhile,” Diaz says.