Babyation’s breast pump brings stealth and dignity to mothers

“Dairy cows don’t put up with what women put up with,” sighs Samantha Rudolph, CEO at Babyation, a St. Louis, Missouri-based company that is today launching a brand new solution for breast-pumping mothers. The company is taking a more holistic approach than most, with an all-in-one system focused especially on stealth. The solution comes in an all-in-one carrying bag that includes cooling packs, storage and stealthy breast shields worn inside a bra. The setup is controlled from an app, making it possible to pump in quiet comfort, even while out and about in the world.

A recent study showed that the vast majority of women say that pumping is the worst part of breastfeeding. That’s a hell of a statistic, given that 95% of nursing mothers pump, and as someone who hasn’t had to use a breast pump, it doesn’t take a lot of research to get confirmation: It sounds pretty awful. The milk has to come out somehow, though — you can’t change biology. Babyation’s take is that if they can’t make it a loved process, they can at least do what they can to make sure it isn’t outright hated.

“We designed our product to optimize for an entire day of pumping. We minimize what’s on the body, then we have built-in storage,” explains Rudolph. It’s hard to overstate how helpful that is; a lot of breast pumps sell just a bottle and a pump, but you’re left with a storage problem and the potential awkwardness of having to leave a bottle of milk in the office fridge. “In other solutions, if I forget any one of these little parts, my pump doesn’t work, and then I’m either uncomfortable, or my milk supply is decreasing. We optimized and put everything in one spot.”

The innovation is that it’s possible to wear the wearables underneath your clothing, and have a small, inconspicuous tube run into the storage bag on the floor. The suction itself comes from a new technology that reflects nature, rather than taking a page out of the dairy industry’s playbook. The company has 11 patents protecting its tech.

“The way we derive our suction is that the device actually collapses on the nipple. It’s how babies suck. The FDA is actually allowing us to say that our suction mimics babies’. No other product can do that,” says Rudolph, and takes me on a journey of how the competition does things. “If you look at [competitor’s] patents, most of them are based on dairy cow technology.”

Breast pump tech in bag

Babyation’s breast pump and storage solution means that mothers can ensure that they have everything they need at a glance. If something is missing from a storage slot, it’s super obvious. Image Credits: Babyation

In the industry, most lactation consultants will tell you that breast pumps can’t express as much milk as a baby, but the Babyation team has a trick up its shirt — proverbially as well as literally — with extraordinary efficacy.

“In testing, 100% of women got out as much milk with our pump, compared with the pump that they usually use. Fifty percent of the time our pump got out more milk than a baby,” Rudolph says. The team is proud of the efficiency, and angry it has taken the industry this long to get there. “Innovation in this space does take time, but I think that part of the reason it’s taken so long, is that for a very long time it was ignored. I think we’ve solved this in a way that has never been done before. I think that our numbers are proving that it’s game-changing. But also, it’s not rocket science to be quiet, discreet and smart. We did not reinvent the way milk is produced. So the fact that women have had to live so long with these outdated solutions is just madness to me.”

Part of the company’s dedication to stealth meant moving the controls for the device to an app, rather than for users having to fiddle around underneath their clothing. The app tracks how much milk has been expressed, it can control the pump remotely and it can track inventory. That way, nursing mothers can know how much milk there is in the fridge and in the freezer and track consumption.

Babyation optimizes for discretion. Image Credit: Babyation

“We actually built an entire feeding app. So if I have a caregiver, I can ask the caregiver to feed a specific bottle of milk, and then that will deplete from my inventory. We also track breastfeeding and we track formula feeding as well. We really tried to put a lot of thought into the app,” explains Rudolph. “We also have an auto-start and auto-stop; if I’m on a call at 3 pm but I know I usually pump at 3:30, I can do that without fiddling around with the pump — that would be the antithesis of discretion. Discretion is our north star.” 

The company told me it has more than 4,500 people on the wait list for its product, which bodes well for its launch today. Babyation is primarily a direct-to-consumer brand, and the company is selling its system for $499.

Willow, the startup making the wearable breast pump, raises $55 million

Willow, the startup company making a new, wearable, breast pump for women, is capping off a frenetic 2020 with $55 million in fresh funding as it looks to expand its product line to more offerings for new mothers.

The company is coming off a year which saw sales increase, and Laura Chambers, the former eBay and Airbnb manager, take over as chief executive and now, with the new capital, it expects to be bringing new products to market beyond the breast pump in 2021.

A March 2020 report from Frost & Sullivan put the total size of the femtech market, including technologies for mothers, at just over $1 billion with growth rates of 12.9%. So the category is small, but growing quickly as more tools come in to provide services in what is a woefully underinvested sector. Indeed, the $155 million that Willow has raised to date puts the company among the upper echelon of women’s health investments.

Contrast that figure with Ro, the storied health brand that launched its subscription medication service for erectile dysfunction with an $88 million investment round.

For women who breast feed, the problems associated with pumping can be legion.

“A lot of women talk about how it’s almost like the pump runs their life,” Naomi Kelman, the founder and former CEO of Willow, told TechCrunch. “Everyone is told, if you don’t breastfeed or pump on a regular basis, your [breastmilk] supply goes down and then breastfeeding is finished for you.”

That’s why startup companies like Willow and Naya Health, as well as established companies like Medela and Lansinoh are developing technologies to not only make pumping breast milk more efficient, but also provide more comfort and dignity to users.

“Through our longstanding relationship with Willow, we’ve been able to see the true impact they have had in helping mom’s balance motherhood in a modern world,” said Josh Makower, Willow’s co-founder and chairman of the company’s board, as well as a General Partner at Willow investor, NEA, in a statement. “Willow is thriving and growing to meet the needs of all moms during these unique times, and we are proud to be a partner in advancing innovation in the femtech field.”

With Chambers at the helm, and the $55 million in new financing in hand from investors led by NEA, Meritech Capital Partners, and including Lightstone Ventures along with new investor Perceptive Advisors, Willow will be doing far more than just making breast pumps and will be looking to expand its footprint to international markets.

“The first problem we wanted solve was pumping and the wonderful wearable mobile pump. That was always product number one. There’s more innovation we can do around pumping. Moms would love us to support them with more hardware and more software,” Chambers said. We’re also working with moms to figure out where else they need support. Mothers are remarkably unsupported in their motherhood journey. We are working with moms to figure out what’s important for them and we’re building that.”

Elvie raises $42M to become the go-to destination for women’s health

Elvie, the developer of femtech hardware including a silent wearable breast pump and a smart pelvic floor exerciser, is one of the boldest startups around.

Led by co-founder and chief executive officer Tania Boler, the London-based business has successfully infiltrated the bro-y community of venture capitalists, which has historically shied away from the “unrelatable” and “niche” sector that is women’s health. Of course, that sector isn’t niche at all, the global women’s health market is expected to be worth $51.3 billion by 2025, but investors have only recently begun to accept that reality.

Elvie is today announcing its third private financing, a $42 million Series B led by IPGL to support the release of four additional women’s health products. Octopus Ventures and Impact Ventures U.K. have also participated in the round.

Six-year-old Elvie is led by Boler and co-founder Alexander Asseily, a hardware vet and co-founder of the consumer electronics business Jawbone, which despite its many struggles, managed to get VCs to cough up hundreds of millions of dollars before it folded. Boler’s expertise in the space — she has a Ph.D. in sexual health — and Asseily’s hardware prowess have undoubtedly lured investors, as has Elvie’s breast pump, launched in September, which boasts a waitlist of thousands of women.

Under Boler’s fearless leadership, Elvie has raised nearly $50 million and started a much-needed conversation around women’s issues, like pelvic floor health and public breastfeeding.

[gallery size="full" type="slideshow" ids="1805635,1805639,1805637,1805638"]

Elvie’s latest attempt to change the narrative around public breastfeeding involved five giant inflatable breasts being placed across London’s skyline. On Mother’s Day in the U.K., March 31, Elvie’s #FreeTheFeed campaign attempted to fight the stigma around breastfeeding and pumping in public in what the startup said was “an invitation to stand with all those women that have felt shamed or confined when breastfeeding or pumping.”

“We know the giant boobs will raise a few eyebrows, but we want to make sure no one overlooks the way that this stigma has been used to repress women,” Boler said in a statement.

“When you create a new category, you have to educate the market and you have to change the conversation,” Boler added in an interview with TechCrunch earlier this week.

Elvie’s long-term plan is to develop products supportive of women at every stage in her life, whether that be pre-natal, menopausal or otherwise, and to become a one-stop shop for women’s health. Its debut product, the app-connected Kegel trainer, helps women strengthen their pelvic floor with five-minute workouts and real-time biofeedback. Its second product, the silent wearable breast pump, is similarly app-connected and monitors milk volume in real-time, tracks pumping history for each breast and can be operated remotely. Both have been category-defining triumphs.

The company will use its latest investment to continue R&D on upcoming products and to build brand awareness and distribution for the Elvie pump and the Elvie Kegel trainer across the U.S., Canada, Europe and Asia.

Elvie’s round follows a number of new investments in the femtech space. Today, another women’s health startup, Cora, closed a $7.5 million investment. Another, NextGen Jane, raised $9 million in a round announced yesterday to use blood wrung from tampons to possibly discover early markers of endometriosis.

“I think it’s really an exciting moment for femtech,” Boler said. “The tech sector is waking up to the importance of the female consumer.”

Naya Health, once a promising breast pump startup, now leaving customers in the dark

With their loud noises and hard plastic flanges, breast pumps are the bane of many a new mother’s existence. Founded in 2013, Naya Health is one of the most notable tech startups working on a better pump. But the company’s support site is now shutdown and it’s stopped updating its social media accounts. In a report today, CNBC spoke to several customers who said their pumps, which cost $1,000 and aren’t covered by insurance, had stopped working, and Naya Health had not provided them with adequate support or replacement parts.

Several users have also complained on Naya Health’s Facebook page about non-delivery of pumps they ordered months ago. A Kickstarter campaign created for Naya Health’s smart baby bottle, which raised more than $100,000, is also filled with complaints about orders not being fulfilled (the last response from co-founder and CEO Janica Alvarez was posted six months ago).

Naya Health’s Facebook and Instagram accounts haven’t been updated since summer, even though users are still posting complaints, while its Twitter account has been set to protected mode. An email sent to Alvarez, who co-founded the company with her husband Jeffery Alvarez, Naya Health’s CTO, received an auto-reply. TechCrunch has also contacted Naya Health investors Tandem Capital and Bojiang Capital, the co-leads of its seed round, for comment. The company has raised $4.6 million in angel and seed funding, according to Crunchbase.

While the Naya Health breast pump’s price tag is significantly more than most competing devices, customers were willing to give it a chance because of its unique flange design, which used silicone and water instead of plastic cups to recreate a nursing baby’s mouth.

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

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.