If you've breastfed a baby anytime in the last few decades, you don't need me to tell you about the backwardness of breast pump technology. But for the many readers who haven't had the pleasure, let me paint a picture for you.
Breast pumps, which are essential equipment for women who want to continue to breastfeed after returning to work, look like something you'd find on a not particularly advanced dairy farm in the 1970s -- all loud, clunky motors and tangled tubes that end in a plastic funnel-like thing that, I guarantee you, no one would choose to put anywhere near a sensitive part of their anatomy if they had a better option.
And that's not even going into the hassles of the finicky bags or bottles for collecting the milk, the washing, the lugging, and the ridiculous fact that you have to actually hold the damn thing in place (or rube goldberg something yourself with an old sports bra) so that you can't do anything else while pumping.
Building a breast pump fit for the 21st century
If this all sounds unbelievably low-tech for an era that has given us sleek gizmos to improve just about every other area of life, you're 100 percent right. Thankfully, a lot of clever entrepreneurs have also noticed the problem and are finally designing solutions fit for the 21st century.
After a much needed (if quite belated -- male-dominated tech industry, what took you so long?) 2014 MIT hackathon dedicated to reimagining tech for nursing moms shone a spotlight on the problem, a handful of companies went to work on the problem. The results are starting to hit the market, according to a recent Wired article (that also offers a fascinating deep dive into the history of the breast pump for those who are interested).
Here's a roundup of the updated options that will soon have new moms breathing a sigh of relief:
Husband and wife team Sam Rudolph and Jared Miller developed Babyation. The re-imaged breast pump "is sleek and compact, with a motor so quiet you barely hear it humming. It's discreet, too--milk flows through a pair of tubes to bottles you can stash just about anywhere, so you don't even have to remove your blouse. A smartphone app controls it all," explains Wired. It's set to go on sale at the end of the year.
Catherine D'Ignazio, one of the organizers of the MIT hackathon, and her co-founder Janica Alvarez created the Naya Smart Pump. "It uses the movement of a small amount of water to create suction on the breast tissue, which allows us to create a more comfortable experience," Alvarez told Wired. But at $999 the hospital-grade gizmo is a hefty purchase for home use.
Naomi Kelman's Willow Wearable Breast Pump is another radical rethinking of the breast pump. "The wireless sphere slips inside a nursing bra, and pumps into plastic bags rather than bottle," notes the article, which achieves the near miraculous aim of freeing your hands while you pump. Limited numbers are currently available for beta testers ($479.99).