We were already in day three of parenthood and my baby still didn’t have a good latch, despite a midnight surgery on his tongue-tie just 19 hours after his birth.
Home from the hospital, we were feeding him by squirting syringes of hand-expressed milk into his cute little mouth. I squeezed and squeezed my poor breasts the way the nurses showed me, until finally admitting defeat and sending my husband out to buy a breast pump. I hadn’t purchased one before the baby came because, while I had planned to try breastfeeding, I truly hadn’t planned to pump.
I wanted nothing to do with the loud, obtrusive machines that reminded me of my grandfather’s dairy cows. I wondered why is it that I can get a night-vision baby monitor, but breast pumps seemed to be stuck in the dark ages...
Luckily, innovative breast pump designs have women harnessing technology to help breastfeeding moms.
Sam Rudolph wasn’t a mom yet when she read an article lamenting the sorry state of breast pump design. Knowing that her future would likely involve one of the outdated contraptions, she vented about design problems to her husband, Jared, an engineer. He told her he could build one.
“I think he just wanted to go to brunch,” Rudolph told Motherly. After that brunch, the two brainstormed during a long car ride and came up with a plan to make pumping better and and Babyation was born.
Years of development have resulted in a high-tech pump that is perfect for using at work because you don’t have to have your shirt off to use it.
The discretion factor is due in part to a collection method that is different from traditional pumps. Instead of going into bottles strapped right to your nipples, the milk flows through disposable tubes hidden under your shirt before dropping into the bottle. The pump is also much quieter than its ancestors.
Getting the Babyation pump (and the app that comes with it) right wasn’t easy, but Rudolph didn’t compromise her vision.
“We designed a product that can be designed anytime, anywhere,” she said. “We drove our industrial designer crazy because they want to understand who is using it and how.”
Rudolph couldn’t tell them that, because she knew a variety of moms would use it in a variety of scenarios. The user would dictate how the pump was used, not the other way around.
The Babyation breast pump will launch for $450 at the end of 2017—but it is just one of several next-generation pumps entering the market: The Willow Wearable Breast Pump is a different kind of tubeless, breast-shaped design that fits the whole device right in your bra. It’s not available for purchase yet either.
Willow will eventually join other premium priced pumps, such as the Naya Smart Breast Pump (already available, just for a cool $999), which uses water to gently massage your breasts are create suction to express milk.
Like Babyation, the Naya was developed by a wife and husband team. Already parents when they came up with their design, Janica and Jeffery Alvarez knew how much old-school breast pumps lacked in the ease and comfort departments.
For her part, Rudolph is glad to see the other designs hitting the market. As she noted, all the different designers seem to be focusing on different problems—which shows how many problems traditional breast pumps have.
As for me, my husband came home with an affordable manual pump that was pretty much the antithesis of technology. My breasts were no longer sore, but my hands certainly were.