Willow is the first all-in-one breast pump that fits inside a bra. Mobile, discreet, and hands-free, Willow allows women to achieve their breastfeeding goals without pressing pause on life.
While most pumps come with an intimidating set of parts and steps, Willow's design is simple. Each pump has few pieces that connect together: the Pump, Flange, Flextube™, and Milk Bag. And Willow is easy to clean, with dishwasher-safe parts and spill-proof Milk Bags—sealed with an innovative, one-way valve—that can be stored in the fridge or freezer.
Willow is smart and connected to an app that syncs data from each pump, enabling mothers to track their milk expression in real time while the pump stays hidden inside their bra. Moms can also use the app to compare data across pumping sessions.
All moms want to give their babies the best start in life, and for many, that means breastfeeding. However, this is the moment when life speeds up and multitasking hits high-gear. Breast pumping has been a helpful aid, but moms told us their current breast pumps can't keep up. Tethered to the wall, undressed, and surrounded by cords and dangling bottles, most mothers who pump are interacting with technology that hasn't fundamentally changed in more than 25 years.
Passionate about solving this challenge, the startup Willow set out to completely re-imagine the breast pumping experience. The team at Willow envisioned a "dream pump" that would deliver what moms want most: mobility and discretion.
The Willow team approached IDEO to be a close partner in bringing their product to life. As a cross-disciplinary team of researchers, industrial designers, and mechanical engineers, Willow, with support from IDEO and Function Engineering, worked together seamlessly to identify mothers' unmet needs and resolve engineering complexities with a simple and elegant design.
We talked to—and more importantly, listened to—moms at every step of Willow's design. The feedback and insights we gained from first-time and experienced moms helped determine Willow's shape, size, color, and materials, as well as the full pumping experience.
In a proprietary research study, 89% of moms claimed that their 'dream pump' would be hands-free and wouldn't involve a cumbersome special bra, and 67% said their ideal pump wouldn't require them to undress. So, we designed a pump to fit conveniently into mom's bra to allow her to pump discreetly while dressed.
For the 44% of moms who wished they didn't have to be connected to a machine that limited their mobility, Willow leaves behind the external tubes, cords, and clunky machines and empowers moms to multi-task and pump wherever the day takes them.
Moms told us time and time again that they felt like they have to plan their lives around pumping, including finding the right times and places to pump. This can be challenging whether at home, at work, or on the go. We heard from moms who felt helpless when they couldn't chase after or care for their toddlers while pumping, and those who were worried about others walking in on them while pumping. The promise of a pump that fits easily inside a bra and lets moms be dressed, mobile, and hands-free met these needs.
Finally, moms described some of the current breast pumps as cold, unrelatable and machine-like. Willow was designed as a personal product to feel comfortable, familiar, and approachable. From the delicate, fabric-like appearance on the outer surface of the pump to its quick and easy assembly, Willow was designed to enable a positive user experience.
Everything that a mom needs to pump, including the milk bag, is inside Willow, meaning her clothes can stay on. Willow has minimal parts to put together and only two parts to clean that are dishwasher-safe, making pumping sessions go much quicker. Willow is quiet enough to be used during everyday activities—including conference calls—so moms don't have to stop pumping and get to skip the embarrassment of loud pumping noises.
The clean and simple look of the Willow pump belies the complexity underneath. The 'B' side of Willow required engineering prowess to arrange over 300 components in its discreet pump form. To the mom, this complexity is not evident and the pump has been purposefully designed to look clean and simple to use, with a 4-touch-pad control panel on the top of the pump that drives the pump and provides indicators.
Unlike most traditional breast pumps, which require moms to lean forward to avoid milk spills, Willow was designed for moms' lives. Moms can pump while leaning back, lying down, bending over, or moving as they please. Willow also has a disposable bag with a unique valve system that is spill-proof. Each bag lets milk in, but a one-way valve ensures that moms' liquid gold cannot leak. All of the Willow parts that come in contact with breast milk are made of materials that are food-safe and BPA-free.
Finally, Willow is smart and intuitive. Willow uses new-to-the-world technology that senses a mom's let-down and automatically transitions into expression phase based on a woman's own unique milk production and timing. Willow also knows to stop pumping when the Milk Bag is full. All of this allows moms to focus on life, not pumping. The Willow App displays what is happening, such as milk volume and pumping time, and tracks past pumping sessions.
Willow recently expanded its product offering with the introduction of a soft gray-colored pump to provide a range of alternatives for all women.
Willow was designed by a mission-driven team of young mothers, fathers, and experienced inventors dedicated to making a difference in women's lives.
With health benefits for both mother and child, The World Health Organization (WHO), UNICEF and other experts recommend babies be exclusively breastfed for the first six months and continue to at least a year. According to WHO, at least 800,000 children's lives could be saved every year if they are optimally breastfed. Children who are breastfed have lower incidence of juvenile diabetes, MS, and heart disease. Mothers who breastfeed are also less likely to develop certain cancers later in life.
In the US, most moms start out breastfeeding, but only 50% of moms are still nursing at six months (as shown in a recent survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). For decades, women have struggled to keep nursing—as they go back to work or keep up with hectic family schedules—often because they have to stop what they are doing and get to a private place to pump. Willow aims to reduce the challenges of breastfeeding by being the first all-in-one breast pump that fits in a bra and gives women the mobility to pump milk on the go, anywhere and anytime. Willow's hope is to provide moms with a pump that fits their lives so that the duration of breastfeeding can be extended, and babies can be nourished longer by the power of breast milk.
Feedback from moms has been outstanding. In a survey of more than 300 women who have used Willow for at least a month:
+ Over 80% reported that Willow helps them balance their lives and makes pumping less stressful
+ Over 90% stated they are able to multitask while using Willow, the majority of which reported being able to relax and spend more time with family
+ More than 90% said that Willow makes it easier to pump in different places, 63% of which are pumping outside of the house
Willow is thrilled to be able to help meet the breast pumping needs of these women and many more.
Credits to Willow for all photos included in this awards submission.