Life & Culture

This is for all those 'useless' mothers


There was nothing Mandy Haberman could do to feed her baby - she felt "redundant and useless as a mother". Her youngest daughter Emily was born in 1980 with a syndrome that made it difficult, if not impossible, to latch on to a breast or bottle to feed.

As a result, Haberman watched her child become "skeletal" after being diagnosed with Stickler syndrome, a genetic progressive condition which affects connective tissue and led Emily to develop a cleft palate.

"She just could not latch on," recalls Haberman. "Doctors told me to feed her with a spoon, but it was disastrous. She would scream.

"It affects how you feel about the baby. You feel redundant and useless as a mother."

After initially customising a rubber dummy to feed Emily, the former graphic designer decided to devise a solution.

She recalls: "I became quite angry that there was not a solution out there. I tried every bottle, but had nothing to feed her. I was really out there on my own.

"That is why I decided to find a solution to the problem

"I felt there needed to be a product out there to help other mums that had babies with feeding problems, with other medical conditions."

Haberman spent five years researching medical papers and meeting consultants before launching the Haberman Feeder bottle. Thirty years on, the product, for babies with suckle and feeding difficulties, is used in hospitals across the UK.

"I was in a privileged position to design a solution. I had experience and so, in a way, I had been through the market research."

Married to Steven Haberman, the Dean of Cass Business School, Haberman, who gave up her job after having twins in 1978, admits: "Part of me also wanted to do something for my career. I was not going to go back to graphics.

"My goal was to put into the family purse equally to my husband, who is a very successful academic."

She achieved her goal after harnessing the power of intellectual property.

Haberman, the award-winning inventor and entrepreneur behind the Anywayup Cup, has gone on to design products that have revolutionised the market. Turn her cups upside down, and there is no spill. Feed a baby with her bottle, and the child will have to work to suckle the liquid out. Today, up to 60 million products are sold across the globe every year using Haberman technology.

After the Haberman Feeder, she tackled the commercial market. Spotting "a child running around with a cup of Ribena, spilling pink stains over an immaculate cream carpet", Haberman went on to design the Anywayup Cup. "I was able to look at it objectively. I thought it was ridiculous and designed something that seals by itself, without having to put a lid on it.

"The cups just took off. We hardly spent any money on marketing the cups - no more than £5,000 a year. At one point, we had 45 per cent of the cups market share in the UK."

Her products, over others, are "intuitive and simple to use," she claims. But the success of the cup design, she says, sparked underhand tactics from corporate competitors whom she has taken to court over patent infringement.

Looking back to the time when she worked on designs from her Borehamwood kitchen, Haberman - a visiting fellow at Bournemouth University - recalls the days when she made time to combine developing a brand with raising three young children.

Haberman, who now splits her time between her homes in Westminster and Aldenham, says: "As a mother, you are used to managing your time and people.

"You are solving problems and finding solutions all the time, it becomes second nature.

"I remember running back from meetings to pick up the children from nursery in Rosh Pinah.

"I was very busy and this was the time before mobile phones. I was working outside of children's hours: weekends, evenings and when they were at nursery."

Now, Haberman has launched the Suckle Feeder to simulate breast-feeding.

She believes the product could help tackle the obesity problem in the UK, whereby British children are now the fattest in Europe.

She says the suckle action, over guzzling milk with minimal work, could combat the over-eating crisis in the country by teaching infants to self-regulate food intake from a young age.

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