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It can happen to the best-intentioned parent or grandparent.

You leave home for a brief shopping trip, or a visit with other family members, or simply for an outing in the park. And when you arrive, you realize that you forgot the baby bottle. Soon, you will have a hungry baby on your hands.

What are going to do?

You'll grab a bottled water, pull out the Flipple, and continue your adventure.

And what's a Flipple? Let inventor Linda Lewis, of Galesburg, Ill., tell you: If necessity is the mother of invention, then it was the grandmother of the Flipple, in Lewis' case.

Here's how Lewis became acquainted with the necessity.

Linda Lewis, originally of Galesburg (where she brought up her children, Sarah Larson, Traci Larson and K.C. Larson), now resides there again after she retired and moved back from Columbia, Mo.

When Sarah's son, Jordan Larson, now 5, was 9 months old, he accompanied his mom and grandmother when they went boating one day in 2006.

"We were on Mark Twain Lake in the area of Hannibal," Lewis remembers. "It was supposed to be a beautiful outing.

"He was screaming and crying by the time we had figured out that that we had left the bottles behind," Lewis said. "We used paper to funnel the powdered formula into a container of bottled water, and he did drink that. But it went all over. Everything around him was sticky. We were all sticky from trying to handle him. We were all going swimming, so it wasn't a big deal."

But what if they had been camping, or attending a church function, Lewis wondered. "I'm a real creative thinker. That's something I've always done (my kids are the same way)," she said. So she went home and considered the concept of an adapter that fits onto a water bottle.

She discovered what many people don't realize: Bottled-water containers have different sizes of neck types and threads. "You can't take a Dasani bottle cap and put it on a Hy-Vee bottle," Lewis said.

She cut off the top of a soda bottle lid, and glued that on the inside of a baby bottle. "That gave me my inside threads and it gave me my outside threads. So I had something that worked," she said. "I knew it worked, but it was a very ugly prototype."

Lewis had been a buyer for Gates Rubber Company, where she also worked in the lab. "The buying gave me the ability to understand manufacturing, and the lab work gave me the knowledge of materials and testing and certifications. All that experience was really great to get me to where I am now. "

She took her prototype to a machine shop in Missouri, where a production model was developed. "Then I was able to package them," she said.

But after she had her production tool, "The bottled water industry threw in a new bottle," she said. "I had to redesign it so it would fit every bottled water out there."

She began selling the Baby Flipple in 2009, "but it was such a new concept that nobody understood it. My packaging was not clear on how to use it, and retailers weren't able to move it off the shelf."

After a package renovation, she knew she had the right product and the right packaging in May of this year. "I knew I had it," she said. "I had a product that was perfect. And now I have a product that sells really well."

The Flipple is a cone-shaped adapter that can be attached to bottled water as a funnel so formula can be added easily. When the adapter is flipped and reapplied to the bottle, a nipple can be added.

Lewis is proud that Hy-Vee chain stores were the first chain store to sell the device. "They have put it in almost all their stores." Then Schnucks picked it up, and now you can buy Flipples at Bed Bath & Beyond.

"All of these are absolutely huge. They are actually a milestone in who is going to make it or not. They're my big test market," Lewis said.

The philosophy behind Flipple is not the replacement of the baby bottle. "It's an emergency baby bottle," Lewis emphasized. "When you're traveling with kids, this allows you to lighten the load. And there's no cleanup at the end of the day.

"The way Flipple is designed, it's the only product in the United States that allows it to fit on all three bottle (water) types. It's the only adapter that fits all three styles of water products.

"The consumer doesn't have to know or be educated on bottle types and thread sizes; they just have to know that this works on them all," Lewis said.

Having a Flipple on hand "allows parents to leave the baby bottles at home. It gives them the freedom to go out and play," Lewis said. "They can spend more quality time with their babies - they're not so wrapped in the baby bottle issue. You can keep it in the glove box of the car and all you really need to carry is carry a bottle nipple and the formula.

"(Health experts) are starting to encourage babies to drink water instead of juice," Lewis said. "Also, mothers have told me that a baby will reach for a water bottle before they will a baby bottle if they see parents drinking water. They want to do what their parents are doing."

Grownups can use the Flipple, too, to add protein to water while they're at the gym, to add vitamins or flavoring to water while traveling, or in the kitchen or the garage as a funnel.

"Think of the freedom you have with a Flipple in your pocket," Lewis says.

 

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