The Willow {Breast} Pump

I have posted pretty openly on social media about all of the places I have needed to pump, and successfully been able to pump – mostly as a laugh, in an attempt to make some aspects of 2020 (and motherhood) a bit lighter.

Pumping on the plane to Florida

In doing so, I have gotten SO MANY questions about the Willow Pump, what I like, what I don’t like, how it works, etc. So I thought I would do a brutally honest mom review. I will start by stating, I am doing this because I’ve gotten so many questions – all opinions are my own, and everything I’m reviewing I purchased….(that said…. Willow…*wink wink* if you ever want to chip in…).

I digress. I used my Flex Spending Account to purchase my Willow, the FSA Store was having a Mother’s Day sale, and I was able to buy the Willow 2.0. Ultimately I went with the Willow because at the time I was ready to buy it had a better sale than the Elvie. In the research I did 7 months ago, there aren’t many differences between the two, but I’ve never used the Elvie, so I can’t speak first hand.

First I want to pause and walk through why I wanted a wearable pump. I actually work daily with medical devices of a different sort (Insulin Pumps), and if it is one thing I advocate for it is considering what you want/need from your device (among other things). Additionally, Pat expressed desire very consistently to be able to feed our daughter, so even before we had her, I knew, and acceptable that pumping would be a big part of our breastfeeding journey. The final factor is my job – I drive A LOT, I knew pumping on the go would be something that would be in my future. Ultimately that is why I landed on the Willow. Joke is on us, because the pandemic has continued to have me working from home. That said, I still really love having a wearable pump!

Fun fact- I’m 100% pumping with my willow in this photo. In the middle of Magic Kingdom.

How it works

You have 3 parts. YES. THREE PARTS. Well 4 if you include the flex tubes but I don’t. If you have used a traditional breast pump (which I also have) there are more than 4 parts.

You have your flange piece your nips go in to, and then the tube, and single use bag connects inside that. Then the durable, pump is placed on, you turn it on, suck, & milk.

You can also purchase re-useable containers to pump into, and pour those into bottles or bags.

Pros:

Very portable

I tote mine around in one of the Lululemon 4L pouches, which holds the pumps, a few extra bags, flanges, and some pump wipes. Also, and this may not be for everyone, but even though I look like I have Dolly Parton sized breasts when I have the pumps on – that has not stopped me from running into the store, picking up coffee, getting a covid test (it also helps that I left a lot of my fucks to give in March of 2020).

Easy to clean

Minimal pieces make cleaning on the go easy. When I am away from home (which is more rare) I clean out the flanges, and flex tube with the Medela pump parts wipes. When I’m home I use soap and hot water.

Closed system, so no milk leaks*

To be fair, you can still have some small leaks, but if you have ever experienced the horror of a breastmilk storage bag breaking open (or not being quite sealed – you do not have that worry with these. So when you pump the milk goes in, and only comes out when you cut the bag open (I did find hacks for you to puncture the bags to reuse them, but I’ve never done it). *You can have leaks with using the reusable containers if you do not seal them off properly.

Re-useable container as an option (purchased separately)

I personally don’t like the re-useable containers – I found I had more inaccuracies with the app when I used them – for instance it would say I have pumped 4 oz and the container was full. I would remove it, to find I’d barely pumped 2oz. I do like that it is an option.

Fits in many styles of nursing bras

I have a few different brands and styles of nursing bras (my favorite are Kindred Bravely) but the Willow works well with all of them.

App for tracking milk output

The fact there is an app is nice, you can see your output, and I have found the app to be sometimes glitchy but not so much that I am turned off by it. The biggest issue I have with the app is the bluetooth connectivity – sometimes the pumps won’t connect to the phone, but I can usually troubleshoot through this by turning the bluetooth on and off.

Customer service

So I have needed to get two pumps replaced and they have sent me new pumps, being a pump down – is a con (see below), but in terms of solutions they have provided solutions when I have been in a pickle.

Cons:

Upfront cost

I paid approximately $500 upfront, for the pump, and then additional flanges, as the 24mm that came with the starter kit were too big for me. Compared to electric pumps this is undeniably more money, however, I knew early on pumping would be a huge part of our journey.

Ongoing cost ** this may be more an issue if you are exclusively pumping like myself

I fly through bags, because I am an exclusive pumper, a bag contains 48 milk bags, and costs $25. You can get them on amazon, and use subscribe and save, and/or pay for them using a flex spending or health savings account. I will say that the price for these compared to other brands is a little more expensive.

You really have to have your nipples aligned in the flange.

LIKE REALLY. Flange size is super important for any pump. For this the flange size is important as is your nipple alignment inside the tube – I have found this to be true personally – on occasions when I have been in a hurry and “powered through” an uncomfortable pumping session – it has resulted in cracked/bloody nipples (**note nursing & pumping should not hurt).

I can’t blame Willow for this- I had a cracked nipple and just kept going- side note- if pumping hurts- readjust.

Inaccuracies within the app/glitchy blue tooth

I did mention the glitchy bluetooth above, which isn’t a huge con. What I really dislike is that when I use the reusable containers the app will show I’ve filled up the container, but then when I remove it, it is only half full. To be fair I there was a recent app update, and I haven’t used the containers since the update so maybe that has been resolved? I will also add I don’t have those types of inaccuracies with the bags.

Other general information

Some pump parts, electric or wearable need to be replaced every three months such as flex tubes, membranes, shields etc. So there are ongoing costs with either a wearable pump or electric pump.

Each side holds 4 ounces – so depending on your supply you may need to change you bag or container mid session. Each session lasts 25 minutes, you can extend the session, and adjust suction as well.

As I mentioned before I do have an electric pump as well, a Medela Pump in Style that I bought when I needed one side replaced. For me personally being able to experience both I have a few additional observations:

I don’t think one sucks better than the other, but I think the willow makes it easier to see the level of suctioning you are using and how it feels versus the Medela where you are just going by feel and using the +/_ buttons.

You can feed your baby a bottle while using either pump – both a little awkward, but do-able. Depending on your nursing journey you may want or need to nurse on one side and pump on the other – a wearable pump would make that easier.

Now that Emilia is a little older, I appreciate the fact that with the Willow I can be on the floor playing with her while I’m pumping, or I can be in my car running errands, cooking, or freely moving around the house.

I hope this helps if you’re considering one way or another.

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