Willow is among several companies at CES focused on meeting the needs of new moms.
This year marks 50 years since the first CES, but only the second edition of the BabyTech Summit, a dedicated program of talks and awards exploring how technology can improve the lives of the youngest digital natives. Apparently, it’s taken this long for the traditionally male-dominated technology industry to train its attention on the baby care market, worth $23 billion annually in the US alone.
But the recent urge to add sensors, paired apps, and artificial intelligence to conventional objects has left no category untouched. Baby tech abounds in 2017, from connected thermometers to smart nursery humidifiers to poop-scanning apps.
One breakout area within baby tech this year is smart breast pumps. Two products, the Naya Smart Breast Pump and Lansinoh Smartpump, are finalists in this year’s BabyTech Awards. A third, Willow, was named the best wearable device of CES 2017 by the tech site Digital Trends.
Willow bills itself as “the only wearable breast pump that fits in your bra, moves with you, and goes wherever the day takes you.” It helps track the amount of milk collected, the collection date, and the length of each session. The product launches in spring 2017 at a price of $430.
“In this space, normally, everyone focuses on the baby. We’re really focused on the mom,” said Willow CEO Naomi Kelman, speaking during CES to an audience at women’s networking space The Girls Lounge. “It’s subtle but it’s different. In particular, we say, how can we make moms’ lives easier and better?”
Kelman said the product was inspired, in part, by the harrowing tale of CES 2016 attendee Molly Dickens, whose Medium diary of pumping experiences at the conference elicited much sympathy online. Improvised setups in empty ballrooms and on bathroom floors spoke to the difficulties many women endure while breastfeeding, and the inadequacy of existing solutions.
When breastfeeding, “A lot of women either drop out of the workplace, or can’t achieve their breastfeeding goals,” said Kelman. “Not every woman has a private office or a pumping room to go into.”
Baby tech itself is a new area, but technology that focuses on the needs of new mothers is even less explored. And while expensive gadgets that babies grow out of in a few months can seem like an unnecessary indulgence, products like Willow could make financial sense for millennial women seeking to start their families without sacrificing career momentum.
For more on women’s tech, read our interview with the maker of Elvie, a smart tracker for pelvic floor exercises.