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The wireless, Bluetooth-enabled breast pump that’s changing lives at CES

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Bridget Carey decided to see if anyone might notice her using the Willow breast pump during her normal working day. Impossible, right? Check out the results of her experiment below.

In a press room filled with 35 other colleagues, Carey sat at CES 2020 pumping breast milk, yet no one had any idea.  

The Willow has revolutionized motherhood over the last three years, a simple machine that goes inside a lactating woman’s bra. The device was launched at CES 2017 and it’s been a game-changer for the 60,000-plus women who have bought one to gain dignity and freedom whilst still feeding their babies.  

Best Breast Tech

CES 2020 saw Willow give their pump a big upgrade. The $500, the third-generation pump is wireless-enabled, has Bluetooth connectivity, and collects milk in spill-free bags. Outwardly, the new model looks the same as past iterations, but the advancements in tech inside give improved suction automation that offers a slower and softer rhythm. Willow says their test showed women could pump up to 20% more milk, on average, when compared with older models. 

Tech like this isn’t going to grab the headlines like wall-sized TVs or concept cars with alien tech. This is a grounded technology that is actually able to change the lives of its users.

The components of the third-generation Willow look the same as the current model, but the mechanics inside the pump are improved. Angela Lang/CNET

Breast milk is recommended for babies for their first year by the American Academy of Pediatrics. Life often gets in the way of that, like when traveling. Pumping breast milk can take up to 30 minutes per session, and a woman needs to do this every couple of hours to make sure she’s going home with enough for her baby and keeping her supply going. It might only take a few missed sessions on the pump before you’d start to produce markedly less milk. 

The Centers for Disease Control in the US say that 60% of breastfeeding mothers don’t continue for as long as the originally intended. The second biggest reason women don’t return to work after maternity leave is cited as the stress of pumping milk at work, so says Ovia Health. 

Willow Deserves a Fist Pump

If you’ve never seen a breast pump before, know that they’re not conducive to a humanizing process. You need to hunt down a private room, declothe your top half, then hook your breasts to a machine that’s a bunch of tubes and cones with bottles dangling to collect the produce. You’ve got to sit like this for 30 minutes, whilst in reach of a power outlet. After that process, imagine the freedom of a Willow pump that weighs just one pound and sits comfortably under your clothes.

At CES, Carey found hunting down a private space wasn’t simple. The convention center was equipped with a few Mamava pumping rooms, but she found the ones near her work station busy both times she wanted to attach the Willow. Even without access to pumping rooms, the Willow isn’t too fiddly so a visit to a bathroom was all it took to get hooked up, in just a few minutes. All you need to do is align it to your nipple, press the play button, get it secured into your nursing bra, and then you’re good to carry on like normal. 

A Mamava pod on the convention center floor provides privacy for moms with traditional pumping machines. It was occupied a few times I walked by, but I didn’t need to rely on it.
Sarah Tew/CNET

Pumped for the Changing Times

As a mother whose lived across the world, two kids in tow, Carey has had her experiences with pumping milk. Her first visit to CES whilst breastfeeding saw her either having to sit in the bathrooms for pumping sessions or dive back to the hotel room. This saw her pumping decrease so much that her supply wasn’t enough to sustain her 6-month-old anymore and she had to move over to formula feeding. Back then, keeping up was just not possible.

Barely a beat has been missed this time, whilst pumping for her 8-month-old. After the Willow has done its job, it just needs to be pulled out of the bra, the bag of milk dropped into a cooler-style lunch bag, and you’re good to head to the next meeting. Carey then takes the cooler bag on the plane back home to New York, no issues.

The market for discreet breast pumps has expanded. Elvie are now on the scene, and Carey has also tested their design. Instead of collection bags, the breast milk goes into a container that’s at the base of the pump and still fits into your bra without wires. The freedom afforded is similar, and there’s a neat tracking app, but it’s prone to spill when you bend forward. 

When you’re done with a session, the spill-proof milk bag pops out for easy storage in a cooler bag.
Angela Lang/CNET

Breastfeeding Future Generations

Tech for mothers is a great thing to see on display, and it’s cool that CES is getting more options every year. 

This latest model is available from spring and there have been over 80 women testing it so far. The next generation of pumping mothers is going to be able to provide food for their babies whilst still going to the office and traveling, liberating them from wires whilst still doing what they need for their kids. 

This is definitely a huge step forward for working moms. 

Cnet’s offered complete coverage from CES 2020, bringing readers the hottest gadgets from around the showroom.

This information isn’t intended to be a substitute for professional or medical advice. You should always discuss your health objectives or medical conditions with a physician or other qualified health provider. This article is only intended to be informational and educational. 

Anna Dovbysh
With 7 years of writing experience and a deep interest in tech, innovations, and all things trending, Anna’s here to shine a light on the most interesting tech stories. Need to know which gadget to choose for your sports activities? Wondering how technology can improve your lifestyle? Want to know what to expect from Apple this year? She’s got all the answers. Subscribe to her posts and share your opinion on the matter!

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