Willow Wearable Breast Pump: CES is not just for male techies.Share on FacebookShare on TwitterShare on Pinterest
According to the CDC report card (2014), breastfeeding rates continue to rise throughout the United States. As of 2011 79% of babies started with breastfeeding, but only 49% were being breastfed at six months and 27% at 12 months. Breastfeeding popularity has experienced increases/decreases over time. With recent “Breast is Best” campaigns from the March of Dimes, and with support from Family Medicine providers, Pediatricians and Obstetricians encouraging breastfeeding, rates have been increasing. The technology in breast pumps, however, has not seen much modernization. Willow is a California based startup, with a single common goal: “Transform the Pumping Experience for Women Everywhere.” There are many stories detailing the struggles of breastfeeding for women. Willow has set out to provide a breast pumping option that can keep up with our modern do-it-all moms.
Willow returned to CES this year, demonstrating their “whole new pumping experience.” The device was designed to allow women to have another option to feed their children. It is true that there are a variety of options to supply nutrition to infants and young children. Breastfeeding is not for everyone, but for those who choose to breastfeed, they should have a plethora of options to choose from. Having breastfed all three of our children, my wife had a really attractive Medela Bag. However, there were factors that were unsatisfactory to her. For example, she would have to apply the airhorn shaped collection devices to each breast, the machine was loud, and she was tethered to cables and the bag. We made it through the process, learning tricks along the way. One of the best things she found to improve the breastfeeding experience was nursing tank tops, which allowed her to have a semi-hands free experience. After returning to work, she had difficulty with this pumping system, as she would have to find a more secluded place to apply and utilize her pump. It is unacceptable that in 2018, many work environments still have no nursing locations. The bathroom is unacceptable, and closets are unacceptable. Willow drastically expands upon the options available to mothers.
I had the pleasure of talking with the team from Willow at Showstoppers CES 2018. The device was designed to be mobile and hands-free, allowing women the freedom to pump while walking, multi-tasking, working, relaxing and essentially doing the things that they want to do. The loud pump has been replaced with an extremely quiet pump, allowing you to interact with others and publicly do the above tasks without sound. Furthermore, it is easy to clean, dishwasher safe is easy to set-up and fits inside of your bra. Willow gives the choice of clothing back to the mother and takes it away from the pump. The device separates nicely, providing access to the 4 oz waterproof, freezable bags. The device can be cleaned in the sink or can be washed in the dishwasher.
The Willow pump can regularly be worn and has the capability to sense milk let-down. It will automatically change to expression phase, following your bodies natural cues. There is no wait time for this device, and it will follow your bodies natural cues. One of the first concerns that my wife and I had was about the price of the milk supply bags. However, we were proven wrong. You can purchase additional milk supply bags in packs of 24, for 50 cents each directly from their website. This cost is incredibly reasonable and should not deter the use of the device. The bags are BPA free, food safe, fridge/freezer safe, spill-proof and have a one-way valve allowing milk entrance but preventing egress. The Willow starter kit will be available in White and Grey color and comes with two 24 mm flanges (27 mm available for purchase), two flex tubes, twenty-four 4 oz disposable milk bags, two cleaning brushes, two carrying bags, one charger, and one quick start guide/instruction manual. Download the application for your iPhone to see milk volume, pumping time, and to review data from previous pumping sessions. There is currently no application support for Android devices. Lastly, the device is designed for full-coverage bras and should not be used with bras with underwires or with padded bras.
I can only hope that insurances will help cover the cost of the device for mothers who desire to breastfeed. Healthcare.gov states that most of the plans on the marketplace must provide breastfeeding equipment and counseling for pregnant/nursing women. Some insurances will dictate the type of pump (manual vs. electric) and whether you get to own or rent the machine. As stated, it would be wonderful if this device was covered by insurance, as I have not seen a better, more mobile device for women. For now, this may be the best $429 dollars that we may ever spend on one of the most important people in our lives. Currently in Beta, look forward to more information and availability later this spring.
Originally published at macsources.com on January 18, 2018.