Willow's smart breast pumps slide into moms' bras

And they look less horrifying than others out there.

Smart breast pumps aren't novel, but a new product relieves moms from the hassle of having to hold up a device or be chained to a power outlet while pumping. Willow's smart breast pumps are two individual motorized cups that mothers can slip into their nursing bras and go about other tasks instead of sitting down and waiting till they're done. Here at CES, I got a chance to check out the new device, which was easy to use. The pump's motor felt gentle when I placed it on my chest over my clothes. For hygiene reasons, I did not try it on the way it's intended to be used -- inside a bra.

Each of the two teardrop-shaped gadgets has a motorized pump that's surprisingly quiet, although to be fair, it's not easy to hear the hum of a gentle motor in the midst of the cacophony of a noisy show floor. Mothers are supposed to slip a Willow into one of the cups of their nursing bras, then press the play button on each to start pumping and the up or down arrow keys to adjust the intensity of the sucking. That design is what's truly novel about the Willow: It frees up a woman's hands to type away at a keyboard or prepare a meal. Compared with other smart pumps, which either look confusing or look downright horrifying, these look relatively inoffensive and much more modern.

As the milk starts filling up a replaceable attached bag through a one-way valve, the Willow measures how much liquid is collected and sends that info to a companion app (iOS for now, Android coming). This is important for parents or caregivers to tell how much milk they're producing and how much supply they have to feed their children.

Each bag can contain up to four ounces of milk, and can be removed to store in a freezer. You can also cut the top off and pour the milk out into a feeding bottle. I was impressed with how easy it was to open up each pump to get the milk, and how intuitive the interface is. After just two tries, I was familiar enough to turn on, reset and then retrieve each bag of milk without any guidance from the rep. That simplicity is a nice touch, considering that a device meant to relieve stress from a daily routine should really not be frustrating to use.

At $429 for a pair, though, the Willow is not cheap. But the company says that that price is comparable to what you'd pay for a regular motorized breast pump. Frazzled moms who are struggling to find time to pump their milk or want to keep track of their output may find the Willow a helpful purchase when it goes on sale this spring.

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