Designing the First All-in-One, Wearable Breast Pump
Collaborating with the startup team at Willow that reimagined the breast pumping experience
Help the Willow team design the look, feel, and user experience of the first all-in-one, wearable breast pump that fits in a bra.
The industrial design of the Willow pump, including its size, shape, color, and materials, as well as the user experience, including how to use, clean, and assemble the device.
All moms want to give their babies the best start in life, and for many, that means nourishing their babies with breastmilk. However, breast pumping is often inconvenient and uncomfortable. 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, IDEO, Willow, and Function Engineering worked together seamlessly to identify mothers’ unmet needs and resolve engineering complexities with a simple and elegant design.
The resulting product, Willow, is the first all-in-one, wearable breast pump that cuts the cords, ditches the mess of bottles, and fits easily inside a bra. Mobile, discreet, and hands-free, Willow allows women to achieve their breastfeeding goals without pressing pause on their own lives.
Willow is designed to make pumping breastmilk a comfortable and convenient experience for moms.
The final design of Willow was informed by research and in-person interviews with dozens of mothers, ranging from first-time to experienced pumpers. Insights about their personal routines, challenges, and workarounds guided the design team as they built more than 60 physical prototypes to understand how Willow could best fit into mothers’ lives. Learnings from those prototypes helped the team to define the size, shape, color, and materials of Willow, as well as each step in the pumping process.
One key design element that emerged from this iterative process was the simplicity of Willow’s architecture, which makes the pump easy to use, assemble, and clean. The pump contains just a few basic parts that snap together, and only two parts that need to be cleaned (both are dishwasher-safe).
Considering how personal the breast pumping experience is, the team aimed to help the pump feel less like a stark, mechanical device and more like a considered, modern, and personal accessory—a goal ultimately achieved through the pump’s colors, texture, and finish.
Because of Willow, mothers no longer need to plan their lives around pumping—it can happen anywhere, at anytime. Willow gives moms back their time and freedom and gives them choice; now moms can play with an older child, work, or enjoy precious relaxation time at home. With Willow, pumping breastmilk finally fits seamlessly into women’s active everyday lives.
The Willow pump contains just a few basic parts that snap together, including a spill-proof milk bag.