Breast Pump Technology Catches up with the 21st Century
We’re not the type to necessarily jump on the bandwagon when it comes to snazzy new parenting technologies… but wireless breast pumps are a whole other story.
When it comes to the punishing exercise of pumping, any possible improvement is grounds for complete and total excitement; the developments unfolding in breast pump technology right now are SO welcome and SO incredibly overdue. In this article, we’re discussing new wireless breast pump technology, highlighting the 3 – 4 new(ish) pumps on the market and what they can offer.
When first invented, breast pumps were clunky, loud, slow, inconvenient, and intrusive… if not downright painful. And they pretty much stayed that way… for decades. Even just about twenty years ago, the absolute most innovative thing on the market was… wait for it… a double pump!
The first breast pump was invented in the 1850s (!), and the design was pretty similar to every breast pump prior to the 1980s (it was modeled off an actual milk machine for dairy cows!). Talk about stagnation — that’s a looooong time without any innovation, folks.
(By the way, guess who designed all the milk-making contraptions for all those decades? Men.)
The 80s saw the introduction of electric pumps, but they were only available (on a limited basis) in hospitals — until Medela developed the first breast pump for home use in 1991. This allowed many working moms to continue breastfeeding for longer, which was (and is) great, but thirty years later, the whole industry is definitely ready for another revolution.
Thanks to a huge increase in demand, new engineering technologies and a surge in breastfeeding rates over the last couple decades, mothers who opt to pump have some exciting new options available to them.
Though pumping is still no picnic, we no longer need to be hooked up to mechanical contrivances fit for the likes of dairy cows; we no longer need to endure hours planted in place near electrical outlets; we no longer need to worry that the ridiculously-loud sound of our pumps will broadcast exactly what we’re doing to anyone within a 1.2-mile radius. Nay.
“If men could breastfeed, surely the breast pump would be as elegant as an iPhone and quiet as a Prius by now.”Courtney Martin, NYT
Virtually all the new wireless breast pumps are smart-enabled, meaning they can be synced and controlled from your smartphone or other smart device. Many of them automatically track milk output and other pumping data (such as pumping session duration or intervals) too. New pumps are also trending towards quieter, more portable, and less obtrusive, so you can look forward to (some) more discretion with certain of these.
Though there are a number of new wireless breast pumps out there (and some still being developed, such as the Babyation) the ones we’re most excited about right now are the Willow, the Elvie, and the Baby Buddha.
The Willow and the Elvie are VERY similar in design — both are in the vanguard when it comes to discretion and portability.
In theory, these two can be worn in public, in front of real live strangers! While you’re moving about! The Baby Buddha, on the other hand, wins not in discretion, but in portability and speed.
In reality, the Willow, Elvie, and Baby Buddha only check some of these goals off the list — that is, no single one of them is perfect. But they are 100% changing the face of pumping, and many women are quickly becoming converts to the new ways. There are some important differences between the three models, but the devil is in the details, as they say…
Without further ado, here’s a glimpse at the newest, most innovative, sought-after wireless breast pumps out there:
The Baby Buddha, on the other hand, is much more concerned with efficiency (and portability) — not so much with discretion. If you’re planning to pump at home (or have a reliable private pumping space elsewhere), we definitely recommend checking it out. This one’s all about power, baby.
“The Pump” from Babyation ($450)
If each model has its own distinct strengths, The Pump’s is 100% discretion. (The Pump is “meant to simplify pumping — but not necessarily make it mobile.”) Instead of attaching collection bottles to your breasts, this pump allows for low-profile use under a shirt because milk storage is distanced from your breasts (making it much less conspicuous than the Elvie or the Willow, say.
In Babyation’s promotional video from Kickstarter, one of the founders reveals at the end of the segment that she’s actually been pumping throughout the clip! It’s currently only available for pre-order and we’re not sure when it’s coming to market, which makes it a little hard to sell….
Ameda Mya ($199-299)
Ameda has been a trusted name in breast pumps for eons. Their hospital-grade pumps are ubiquitous in the rental supply market and at hospitals. Their home-use pump, the Ameda Purely Yours, was the only pump offered by many insurance plans for many — and left a lot to be desired.
Their newest pump, the Ameda Mya, is a slim, lightweight, hospital-grade wireless breast pump. Women are impressed with its strength and portability, not unlike the Baby Buddha. The pump motor/housing itself is only about half the size of a newborn diaper (tiny!) and the battery life can last up to 2 hours. Many users are trashing their Medelas and Spectras (gasp!) for this one, saying that it’s smaller, quieter, more powerful, and more portable.
We’re especially interested because many insurance companies cover Ameda brands pumps — so hopefully this powerful pump will be available to many of you for free. If so, snatch it up! Alternatively, you can also just buy it on Amazon for $169, which is still a screamin’ deal, IMO.
The Spectra S9 ($180) and the Spectra S3 Pro (coming soon)
Spectra entered the playing field a few years ago with the S1 and S2 and very rapidly challenged Medela’s long-running hegemony in the world of breast pumps. Soon after, Spectra came out with a mobility pump — the S9 — and many women love it. But we’re most excited about the new option, the S3 Pro — a hospital-grade wireless breast pump… stay tuned for more.
The Medela Sonata was the first smart pump we reviewed in early 2017. With a smaller, quieter housing/motor and a smart tracking app, it encapsulates some of the new developments in the pump world… but still looks fairly traditional compared to the newer ones reviewed above. It has a decent battery life and is loved most for the “comfort” factor. Read our full Medela Sonata Review.
*One final note on the nature of the “breast pump tech revolution” that’s brought us the likes of the Willow, Elvie, Baby Buddha, and more:
We think it’s fantastic that people are dedicating time and resources to improving breast pumps. But these little devices are not everything — renowned Harvard historian and writer Jill Lepore derided the modern breast pump as “the cheap way out” when it comes to supporting nursing moms.
As Lepore writes — many women stop breastfeeding when they return to work, and “there are three ways to bridge that gap: longer maternity leaves, on-site infant child care, and pumps. Much effort has been spent implementing option No. 3, the cheap way out.” Better ways to support breastfeeding moms, she suggests, would entail improved family leave policies, more flexible work opportunities, and universally available, high-quality, affordable child care.
But we’re not giving back the better pumps!