Few things in life are simultaneously as wonderful and awful as breast pumps. They’re tiny plastic suction cups, full of contradictions. They let breastfeeding women work and live without being chained to their houses and babies. They make a lot of things possible, and without them being a milk-feeding parent would be a lot more difficult, or impossible for some people. They are wonderful and essential and we are lucky to have them. That said, they really kind of suck, don’t they?
Breast pumps are loud, unwieldy, and very awkward. They spill. They make us stop what we’re doing and latch ourselves into machines. They’re inefficient. They’re ugly. They can’t be used lying down. Most people who use them have a love-hate relationship with their pumps. On top of all that, they’re astonishingly low tech. We’re all carrying around the entirety of recorded human knowledge on tiny devices the size of half a deck of cards, but my breast pump doesn’t look appreciably different than the one my mother used. That’s weird! Technology has changed so many things, why does the breast pump still suck in the same way?
Well, now there’s a new, high-tech breast pump called the Willow on the way, and it looks more like an iPhone than an industrial dairy machine.
According to CNN’s Esther Cohen, a new “smart” breast pump debuted yesterday at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, and it’s designed to let breastfeeding parents multitask while pumping. It can pump while you’re working, walking, cooking, or even sleeping, which is stuff you can’t really do while hooked up to a traditional breast pump.
The blue and white design makes it look like a set of giant ear buds for your breasts, but they work like a set of large, hard plastic falsies. The pump is self-contained, powered by battery, and and it’s hands-free and actually extremely discreet. There are no external tubes, cords, or dangling bottles, so you don’t even need a special pumping bra. The pump and bag are inside the plastic shell. You just stick them in your bra, and they quietly pump while you do other things. Like sleep. This could be a breast pump you could actually sleep in, and that could be a game-changer. (Anything that allows even a few minutes of sleep with a newborn is a game-changer.)
Cohen saw the Willow in person at CES and says it’s as quiet as they say. She says she had to press her ear against the device to hear it.
Because it is 2016, there is an app for that, too. The Willow app tracks volume, which is extremely useful for a lot of breastfeeding women. It also says that the device senses let-down and starts expressing whenever the body starts letting down milk.
They’re expected to go on sale for $430 this spring. That’s certainly expensive, but most electronic, double-pump systems are very expensive. Medela’s is $360 at Target, and while that’s basically the Cadillac of breast pumps, it can’t do what the Willow says it can do. It’ll be really interesting to see what people think of the Willow once they get a chance to try it out for real.