February 23, 2019
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breast pump

Kegel trainer startup Elvie is launching a smaller, smarter, hands-free breast pump

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Elvie, a Berlin-based startup known best for its connected Kegel trainer is jumping into the breast pump business with a new $480 hands-free system you can slip into your bra.

Even with all the innovation in baby gear, breast pumps have mostly sucked (pun intended) for new moms for the past half a century. My first experience with a pump required me to stay near a wall socket and hunch over for a good twenty to thirty minutes for fear the milk collected might spill all over the place (which it did anyway, frequently). It was awful!

Next I tried the Willow Pump, an egg-shaped, connected pump meant to liberate women everywhere with its small and mobile design. It received glowing reviews, though my experience with it was less than stellar.

The proprietary bags were hard to fit in the device, filled up with air, cost 50 cents each (on top of the $500 pump that insurance did not cover), wasted many a golden drop of precious milk in the transfer and I had to reconfigure placement several times before it would start working. So I’ve been tentatively excited about the announcement of Elvie’s new cordless (and silent??) double breast pump.

Displayed: a single Elive pump with accompanying app.

Elvie tells TechCrunch its aim all along has been to make health tech for women and that it has been working on this pump for the past three years.

The Elvie Pump is a cordless, hands-free, closed system, rechargeable electric pump designed by former Dyson engineers. It can hold up to 5 oz from each breast in a single use.

It’s most obvious and direct competition is the Willow pump, another “wearable” pump moms can put right in their bra and walk around in, hands free. However, unlike the Willow, Elvie’s pump does not need proprietary bags. You just pump right into the device and the pump’s smartphone app will tell you when each side is full.

It’s also half the size and weight of a Willow and saves every precious drop it can by pumping right into the attached bottle so you just pump and feed (no more donut-shaped bags you have to cut open and awkwardly pour into a bottle).

On top of that, Elvie claims this pump is silent. No more loud suction noise off and on while trying to pump in a quiet room in the office or elsewhere. It’s small, easy to carry around and you can wear it under your clothes without it making a peep! While the Willow pump claims to be quiet — and it is, compared to other systems –you can still very much hear it while you are pumping.

Elvie’s connected breast pump app

All of these features sound fantastic to this new (and currently pumping) mom. I remember in the early days of my baby’s life wanting to go places but feeling stuck. I was chained to not just all the baby gear, hormonal shifts and worries about my newborn but to the pump and feed schedule itself, which made it next to impossible to leave the house for the first few months.

My baby was one of those “gourmet eaters” who just nursed and nursed all day. There were days I couldn’t leave the bed! Having a silent, no mess, hands-free device that fit right in my bra would have made a world of difference.

However, I mentioned the word “tentatively” above as I have not had a chance to do a hands-on review of Elvie’s pump. The Willow pump also seemed to hold a lot of promise early on, yet left me disappointed.

To be fair, the company’s customer service team was top-notch and did try to address my concerns. I even went through two “coaching” sessions but in the end it seemed the blame was put on me for not getting their device to work correctly. That’s a bad user experience if you are blaming others for your design flaws, especially new and struggling moms.

Both companies are founded by women and make products for women — and it’s about time. But it seems as if Elvie has taken note of the good and bad in their competitors and had time to improve upon it — and that’s what has me excited.

As my fellow TechCrunch writer Natasha put it in her initial review of Elvie as a company, “It’s not hyperbole to say Elvie is a new breed of connected device. It’s indicative of the lack of smart technology specifically — and intelligently — addressing women.”

So why the pump? “We recognized the opportunity [in the market] was smarter tech for women,” Boler told TechCrunch on her company’s move into the breast pump space. “Our aim is to transform the way women think and feel about themselves by providing the tools to address the issues that matter most to them, and Elvie Pump does just that.”

The Elvie Pump comes in three sizes and shapes to fit the majority of breasts and, in case you want to check your latch or pump volume, also has transparent nipple shields with markings to help guide the nipple to the right spot.

The app connects to each device via Bluetooth and tracks your production, detects let down, will pause when full and is equipped to pump in seven different modes.

The pump retails for $480 and is currently available in the U.K. However, those in the U.S. will have to wait till closer to the end of the year to get their hands on one. According to the company, It will be available on and, as well in select physical retail stores nationally later this year, pending FDA approval.

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Lilu’s compression bra aims to help nursing mothers pump more milk faster

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A startup called Lilu took the stage today at TechCrunch Disrupt San Francisco to show off their prototype bra designed to help breastfeeding mothers pump milk more efficiently, and hands-free. The device, which is meant to be worn over or even attached to a standard nursing bra, utilizes a built-in compression mechanism that simulates the breast massage that some mothers perform to help stimulate the flow of milk and prevent clogged glands.

The idea for the product comes from M.I.T. and UPenn graduates, Adriana Vazquez and Sujay Suresh, both of whom shared an interest in health care technology.

Explains Vazquez, she was inspired to create the device after a friend of hers returned to work after having a child.

“It was the first time I saw up close what it was like to be a working mother,” she says. “It struck me how little I knew about the challenges that working moms face.”

Vazquez then began interviewing working moms about their struggles, and found that one of the topics that came up repeatedly was how difficult it was to continue to breastfeed after returning to work.

“The biggest culprit was the breast pump,” she says.

One of the problems with pumping is that you often end up producing less milk. One of the solutions that doctors and lactation consultants recommend, which is backed by research from the Stanford Children’s Hospital, is using breat massage. This technique not only can help with production, but it also helps you get milk that’s richer in fat content, can extend your supply for longer periods of time, and may allow you to pump your milk in less time.

However, breast massage ties up a woman’s hands from other tasks while pumping – a process that can take 30 minutes or even an hour, depending on various factors.

With that understanding, the team at Lilu developed a device that simulates the massage process using compressed air. The technology applies similar compression patterns to those recommended by lactation experts, which not only frees up mom’s hands, but also can help those who have to regularly perform massage from getting sore thumbs and fingers. (There’s even a word for this: “mommy thumb,” notes Vazquez.)

Lilu is worn like a bra, with a backstrap that clips together and velcro straps around the top and bottom. It can also optionally attach to your nursing bra for extra support. A round button in at the top center works as a power button and lets you control the strength of the massage itself. Access for a USB charger is below – yes, it’s a battery-powered bra.

The device works with any standard breast pump, as well, as it’s meant to augment the pumping process, not replace it.

Lilu, however, may face its own challenges as it prepares to launch.

For starters, not all moms even know about using massage to help with milk flow.

Plus, not every mother, nor even every breastfeeding mother, will have the sorts of problems with milk flow that require the use of breast massage. And among those who do, they may feel that using their hands is not something they feel the need to automate through a piece of technology.

That means this device will essentially appeal to a subset of nursing mothers at the start, and will then need to educate the wider market to broaden adoption among other potential customers.

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Priced at $249, it’s also one of those “luxury” baby products. It’s not something as essential as diapers and wipes, but will compete for parents’ dollars alongside other “baby tech” products, like fancy baby monitors, or booties that detect baby’s vitals.

And the company can’t currently claim that the device will help moms produce more milk than manual massage, because they haven’t yet tested it at scale.

However, Lilu was built with input from those who understand the massage technique involved, including doctors, nurses, and lactation consultants.

The startup is also backed by the Y Combinator Fellowship, the National Science Foundation, and the HAX Accelerator in China, and has received a number of grants and awards from various competitions and funds.

Based in Philadelphia, Lilu is a very early stage team of three.

The company is taking pre-orders as of today’s launch at TechCrunch Disrupt, and aims to begin shipping in 2018.

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