A Hands-Off Breast Pump

The breast pumping world just got a whole lot more interesting, friends. While for many of us, pumping tends to involve lots of connecting tubes and hoses, whirling noises and complicated gadgetry, the new wearable breast pump by Willow hopes to make the future of breastfeeding a little more streamlined.

Willow’s product shots certainly paint a pretty appealing picture of what breast pumping could look like — a woman reclined comfortably on the couch, wrapped in a cozy blanket, pumping food for her baby while she browses peacefully on her laptop, wearing what looks like a simple padded bra.

It’s quite the striking contrast with my own experience of pumping, which meant plugging in my pump, untangling the tubes, trying not to scare anyone with the jet-engine like sound of the pump whirring, and finding a place to pump where I would have enough room to hold my pump and dump the milk without spilling it everywhere.

The Willow’s inventor says he was inspired by watching his wife breastfeed their three children. He hoped to make a pump that would make breastfeeding easier and more accessible to more moms, and hopefully boost the breastfeeding rate. The Willow isn’t available yet, but you can sign up on their website to get notified when it does hit the market this spring.

So let’s talk details: Is this really the breast pump we’ve all been waiting for? Check the specs, and some pros and cons for pumping moms:

Designed for Multi-Tasking
On the plus side, the Willow’s efficient design is really intriguing — it’s completely wireless and tubeless, and fits discreetly into your bra, so you can pump while doing pretty much anything. A pump that doesn’t require moms to schedule an hour just to set up and use…every time? Score. That said, I kinda sorta don’t love the idea that women always have to do more, more, more, even while also making milk. I secretly loved having an excuse to relax and watch trashy TV whenever I had to pump. 

Discreet and Quiet
The Willow is designed to be super-quiet, so in theory, no one will hear the tell-tale swish-swish of your date with your breast pump. The whole pump looks like a bra cup, with the pumping mechanism housed in the shell, and a 4-oz. U-shaped breast milk bag lining the cup on each side. But does all the emphasis on being “discreet” just send the message that pumping is something that moms — or the public — find inherently distasteful? Call me crazy, but I don’t see the need to hide moms away just because their breast pump happens to make noise. 

Smart Technology
The Willow syncs to your phone to tell you how much you’ve pumped in each sitting. It even “learns” your habits and adjusts its suction strength when your milk lets down, instead of having you manually switch modes. 

Easy to Clean
The whole pump is dishwasher safe. Pretty sweet.

This is the biggest issue I see with the Willow pump — the internal bag is designed to hold only four ounces of milk. That might be the right size for lots of women, but one size definitely does not fit all. For instance, one of my breasts was a real overachiever and would yield six ounces in one sitting, especially if I had a long shift at work and hadn’t had time to pump. I had to switch bottles halfway through pumping to avoid overflow, and the switch took some serious precision and skill. I can’t imagine the mess that would result if I went about my day without switching the storage bag in my top-secret breast pump: My whole bra would overflow with milk.

At $ 460 (holy smokes), this pump is definitely a lot more pricey than the average breast pump. But then again, it’s not your average breast pump. I know I paid about $ 300 for my Medela, which has been worth every penny, so it’s hard to say if the higher price tag is worth it, especially if your insurance plan doesn’t cover it. But in the long run, considering how much milk you can get from a pump, the cost could be worth the benefits.

While some moms may not want to reinvent the wheel, I sure as heck could have used a pump that worked while I was driving home from work when my boobs were about to explode, or on business flights when I had no room to wrestle with my huge pump.

Now, if someone could invent a breast pump that brings you coffee and massages your feet, that would be great. 

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