World’s First Breast Pump That Suckles Like A Real Baby
The world’s first breast pump that mimics a baby’s suckling was launched in Israel last month. Within two hours, it had completely sold out online.
It’s clear why: moms are simply fed up with traditional breast pumps. They are frustrating to use, they often don’t produce enough milk, and the pumping can be extremely painful.
The first modern iteration of the breast pump was developed in 1921, when American pediatrician Isaac Abt modified an electric cow-milking machine. It was loud, it was large, and it could only be operated by a nurse.
Since then, the breast pump has been upgraded in terms of its style, design, weight, and portability – but it still uses the same suction mechanism originally developed for cow udders.
The Annabella is the first breast pump to mimic a baby’s suckling reflex. It uses a unique combination of suction and compression to trigger the brain signals a mom receives from an actual suckling baby.
In clinical trials, mothers who used the Annabella produced almost twice as much milk as those who used traditional pumps.
The device’s breast shield – the part of every breast pump that fits over the nipple and creates a vacuum to draw out milk – generates a wave-like motion akin to that of a baby’s tongue. Buttons can control the pace of the ‘tongue’.
The suckling method of a baby is by far the best way of expressing breast milk. This specific kind of stimulation triggers nerve endings and receptors on the nipple, which send a signal to the brain that there is a baby on the breast and that it needs to release milk.
The brain sends chemical signals – oxytocin and prolactin – to do so. But when a mother doesn’t have that motion and only feels the suction, her body isn’t producing any more milk – the pump is only sucking out the available milk from the breast.
Like many mothers, Masha Waldberg, Co-Founder of Annabella, was frustrated by the painful process of trying to use her breast pump.
“I gave birth when I was just 23 years old,” she says. “I was born into the age where consumer products are your best friends. They’re here to make your life as easy as possible, and you form bonds and emotional attachments to them.
“And here’s this product that’s not only supposed to make me more independent and make my life easier, it’s supposed to be the product that helps me supply my baby with what is the healthiest form of food for them – and I absolutely hated it. But I couldn’t accept it, it became this never-ending drive and obsession.”
The more she spoke about it, the more she found that other moms agreed that current breast pumps aren’t comfortable.
So she made an impulse decision to drop her studies – she was in her last year of her law degree – and to pursue this passion instead.
Waldberg conducted a lot of research, and consulted with doctors, surgeons, and lactation consultants to develop the Annabella.
The innovation, apart from the suckling mechanism of the breast shield, is that moms can adjust the breast shield size of their Annabella.
Breast shield size is another factor that affects the amount of milk a mother can pump – and a few millimeters can be the difference between injuring themselves and not pumping enough milk, and pumping a lot of milk in a better, efficient, and more pleasant way.
It is also equipped with a nightlight, as the hormone prolactin, which is responsible for the production of breast milk, is highest at night, and mothers often find themselves pumping in the early hours of the morning.
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Waldberg say her device makes the most of new technology, for example the ability to combine silicon and plastic in ways not previously possible.
That said, it was incredibly complex to mimic the suckling method and make it user-friendly without a multitude of parts to take apart and put back together for every wash.
“I like to compare breast milk to sweat: you can never run out of sweat, but you will sweat less if your glands are stimulated less,” she explains.
“Breast milk cannot dry out, the same as sweat. You can produce less if you stimulate them less. So when you only use the suction from breast pumps, you aren’t stimulating them.
“That being said, you cannot extract milk from the breast with only the tongue motion – you have to have the combination of it and the suction.”
The Annabella was named after Waldberg’s daughter. She often compared her to the different prototypes of the breast pump while they were still under development – like how she would suckle when she wouldn’t latch on properly, when her first tooth was emerging, or when she would fall asleep.
“It’s actually created a very weird situation where we never call her by her full name, because every time we say Annabella, we talk about work.”
Waldberg tested out the different prototypes herself, and does so to this day, even though her daughter is now six years old.
“I like to call myself Patient Zero. I’m living proof that if you don’t stop stimulating those glands, milk will always come out.”
The Annabella is similar in price to higher-end breast pumps, or double breast pumps. Like other breast pumps, its parts need to be replaced every three months, to prevent lower milk supply.
“I know that some moms feel that it’s a bit costly for them, and I understand them,” says Waldberg.
“But I will never tell a mom that this is the only breast pump she needs to buy. Everybody has different needs, lifestyles, and reasons for pumping.”
The company’s customer support line also has lactation consultants to help mothers in a holistic way when they have a problem.
“It’s our point to make sure to educate and to spread knowledge to as many moms as possible.”
Waldberg herself assists Israeli mothers with Annabella and her company hosts webinars to teach moms about breastfeeding and combining it with breast pumping.
“I think that makes my job better, and it makes us as a company develop better products, when mothers talk to me and communicate their needs.”
Annabella, based in Tel Aviv, aims to expand to the UK by the end of the year, and reach US markets next year.