Is the Willow Hands-Free Pump worth it? – An Honest Review of the Willow Breast Pump

Willow Breast Pump Review

For all you mamas out there who pump, The Willow Pump sounds like a dream too good to be true…a cord free wearable breast pump that fits in your bra, is spill-proof (even when lying down or bending over), and works quietly and discreetly. Freeing your hands up for caring for a baby, a toddler, or getting some work done. Its makers even claim that you can wear it to do yoga. How does the Willow pump actually perform and stand up to its promises? Read on to find out.

Willow Breast Pump Review

Willow Breast Pump Description:

The Willow Breast Pump is actually comprised of two separate breast shaped pumps that fit directly into your nursing bra. The donut shaped milk bags fit right in the middle of the pump, which goes directly on your breast. The bags only hold 4 oz of milk and are only available through Willow. There is a Willow app available for iOS and Android that allows you to keep track of your progress and view history. You can track your sessions – how long you pumped and how much volume you expressed. Great for all you numbers people out there!

There are currently 2 versions of the pump: the Willow 1.0 and the Willow 2.0. The first version is listed at $479.99 and the newer 2.0 version is $499.99. The biggest difference between the two versions is the clear flange and peek through window on the newer version along with the quick-snap closure. Here’s a list of all the items included with your Willow pump purchase:

  • 2 Willow Pumps
  • 2x 24mm Flanges
  • 2 Flextubes
  • 1 Charger
  • 24 4 oz. Milk Bags
  • 2 Cleaning Brushes
  • 2 Carrying Bags

Willow pump and parts

Additional milk bags can be purchased for $11.99 for a 24 pack (~50 cents per bag) plus the cost of shipping (shipping is free for $70+).

My Personal Experience with Willow:

I was super excited to use this pump. Willow was even mentioned in my previous blog post on the items I was planning to purchase for my second baby. I ended up being gifted this by my mother as a baby present (Thanks Mom!!!) and was stoked to give it a try and hopeful that it would live up to its promises. For the most part, it did, but with a few snafus along the way.

Willow Breast Pumps

Using the Willow Pump:

Firstly, I found that this pump takes a bit of practice to use. Putting Willow together for the first time and getting the milk bag in is a bit confusing; getting the right alignment on the nipple/breast when you cannot fully see your breast and nipple is also a challenge that takes a bit of practice.

It will be easier for you if you have used other pumps in the past, but it would be completely foreign for a first time pumper. This is also where the updates to the 2.0 come in. Since the 2.0 has a clear flange, it is easier to see your alignment over the nipple and with the quick snap closure, you can position the flange first and then pop on the pump directly over it. With the 1.0 you have to sort of just get the feel for it and then guess the right position.

The good news is that there are detailed videos and tutorials on the Willow website and phone app that I would highly recommend watching (probably a few times) to get it all straight. Additionally, Willow support offers coaching to help you when you are having challenges with using the pump. I contacted support for other reasons, but was able to get my problem solved (more on that to come).

I’ve also found that frequently when I am first starting the pump, the app will tell me my alignment is incorrect but it isn’t always the alignment. If you get this error when using the pump, you should always check the assembly as well. Make sure the milk bag is firmly pressed in, the flange and that the flange and flextube are tightly connected.

Then there is a special “flip to finish” that you must do to get all of the milk out of the pump and into the bag. I still don’t always remember which way to hold and flip the pump every time. So bottom line – this pump will take a bit of getting used to that you should be prepared for.

Additionally, while the bags are supposed to hold 4 ounces, I have never gotten them to hold that full amount. Theres always a small amount of air, so the best I’ve ever gotten is 3.7 ounces. Sometimes if you struggle getting the alignment correct there is WAY more air though and then the bag will hold very little. At that point you’ve basically wasted a very expensive bag, and there is no way to fix it.

Product Snags and Willow Customer Support:

As far as my personal experience, I did unfortunately run into a major challenge the first time I tried to use the pump. I had successfully installed the app on my Android device and paired to both pumps when the app told me I needed to update both of the pumps. No big deal right? WRONG!! The installation kept failing over and over; I followed advice on the Willow website to no avail.

I ended up having to contact support for help and got escalated to a manager for resolution. They had to ship me a third pump to get the issue fully resolved, and it did take quite a bit of time. Not to mention that I couldn’t use the pump in the meantime. They did end up giving me some free milk bags for all of my trouble. And the customer service was excellent. However, if you have an Android be prepared for hiccups with the app. It just launched for Android and seems to still have some issues.

Comparison to Traditional Pumps:

After I was actually up and running with Willow and I learned how to use the pump, all has gone pretty smoothly. I like the pump; and I think it works as well as my Spectra and Medela pumps do without cords. I do find that it takes me a bit longer to get the same volume compared to a traditional pump…this might stem from the fact that you can’t do quite the same compression and massage since the bulk of the pump gets in the way.

I also don’t think I would be doing yoga wearing this pump (the pumps don’t feel secure enough to do a workout); however, I haven’t had spillage and I can move about the house and bend over while pumping without spilling. A huge win with a toddler running around! It is still cumbersome to hold your little one with these since they are essentially hard plastic breasts on top of your breasts, but it is a huge improvement over tubes and bottles jutting straight out. I especially love using this pump when I am getting ready in the morning, in the car, or when I am out of the house. If you travel for work, it’s so much easier to use the Willow pump at the airport or in a bathroom stall than a traditional pump since there are no wires.

Sound and Discreetness:

As far as the claims of being discreet and quiet, I do find the Willow pump to be very quiet. So much so that sometimes I find myself reaching down to make sure it is still going if there is any background noise. However, even though it fits in your bra, it is very obvious that you have something in there as the pumps are bulky. So I recommend wearing a very loose fitting top if you plan to be in public pumping with these (and be prepared for curious glances).

The Good:

  • Completely cord free and you can bend over with no spillage!! This is obviously the biggest draw of the pump and man it does deliver on that.
  • Only 2 separate parts to clean per pump AND no small valve pieces to keep track of like on traditional pumps.
  • Great customer service and training sessions available.

The Bad:

  • Price of milk bags – at ~50 cents apiece (without the shipping cost), if you pump on both sides each time that would be $1 per pumping session. If you pump 8 times a day on both sides that would be $240+ per month. (Not to mention the air issues and the times you pump more than 4oz. Per side)
  • There is definitely a bit of a learning curve to use Willow. It takes a bit of practice to use properly and can be a little frustrating at first. I’ve had a number of people comment and tell me they never were able to really get up and running with the pump. Which is awful, since they are not returnable after using.
  • Expensive at $479.99 for 1.0 and $499.99 for 2.0 and typically not covered by insurance (mine didn’t). Willow does offer a payment plan and you can also use an FSA or HSA to pay for it.
  • Only comes with one charger for the 2 pumps. The pumps are supposed to last through 5 sessions on one charge; however, they don’t hold a charge long over time. So I found that you still need to charge frequently. **When I received my pumps they were running a special that included an extra charger and pump bags for free. Looking for a deal like that is worth it.
  • Small range of flange sizes only 24mm and 27mm available – ruling this pump out entirely as an option for some mamas out there.

Final Verdict:

Honestly, I think the final verdict depends on your situation and how strong a need you have for the mobility this pump provides.

If you are an exclusive pumper or an overproducer, I think it would be difficult to use Willow as your only pump because of the 4 oz per bag limitation and the price of the bags. I do personally love this pump being a breastfeeding mama this go round. Plus it comes in super handy when traveling. If you either don’t have high demands on your pump and are not an overproducer or if you have a backup traditional pump as well then it works out incredibly well.

When I was an exclusive pumper (like with my first born), I would have wanted to use both this and my traditional pump as well…due to the price of the bags and the sheer volume I pumped at certain times. I still would have thought this pump was worth every penny because when you pump up to 12 times a day, having mobility for some of those sessions is incredibly valuable. Since this pump typically is not covered by insurance, you could get a traditional pump through your insurance and then you could purchase this as your “on the go” pump. I do recognize that is an expensive option that not everyone would be able to do, but I think in certain situations it would be warranted to have the 2 pumps.

One alternative I have heard of for a hands-free option is the Elvie. I havent personally used the Elvie pump, but I have heard great things. It doesn’t require bags, but it is often sold out and hard to find.

I do love love love my Spectra pump (if you are looking at a traditional option). It’s incredible, and I highly recommend it.

Have you tried the Willow pump? If so, let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

Thanks for stopping by!

Katie

10 Comments

  • RCB

    My experience with Willow has been horrific. I depended on this pump as my travel pump but have had numerous problems. 1) The flip to finish mechanism is a disaster. There is always milk left in the flange which just means it gets everywhere. Even after watching the video and talking to them about it, it was impossible to master. 2) The pump is SO sensitive that exposure to the slightest amount of liquid can make it malfunction. Note that they DO NOT make this clear to users despite the faulty design mentioned above that is hard to master. They mention it only on page 36 of their manual (which I’ve now learned). 3) Their repair and customer service function when a pump malfunctions is among the worst I’ve ever seen. If you’re pump malfunctions they have no recourse except to buy a new one. I, as I’m sure have many others, have spilled liquids on electronics before and they’re either fine or there is a good repair option. Given that moms depend on pumps to nourish their babies, this seems to me like something the company would prioritize. Horrific.

    I’m now stuck with a single faultily-designed single pump or I have to buy a $200 replacement when I’ve already spent $500.

    My other complaints are that the bag design is so wasteful and expensive. The bags aren’t big enough to do a full pumping and only actually ever hold max 3.7oz. Much prefer the Elvie model here. Finally, their support around insurance reimbursement was also awful.

    NOT WORTH IT.

  • Megan

    I have had a terrible experience with this pump! No matter which bra I have on, how tight it is, or if I just hold the pump to me, the bag fills with air. And the flip to finish never works, even after watching the videos. I always have milk leaking and going everywhere. Getting to the expression phase is also difficult. I’ve talked to Willow as well as watching more videos, and nothing seems to work for me. But the bag seems to be filling with milk (and air) during the stimulation phase. I have the Apple app and it tells me I’ve pumped way more than I actually have. And so when it says I’ve pumped over 2 ounces, I maybe have 0.5 ounces. I can pump way more milk in less time with my other pump that I got for free with my insurance. So I kind of feel like I wasted $500.

    • Katie

      That sounds awful. I’m sorry you’ve had such a bad experience. I have trouble with air getting in the bags too, but I can usually get it to work after a few tries. I’m surprised they can’t do anything else to help you. That’s terrible service. I feel like they should offer a refund if they can’t help you.

  • Kirsten

    I have Willow also. And, the container has arrived. I was elated to try it. It came in the mail yesterday in a plastic shipping envelope with a smashed product box inside I might add. Still, the product was not damaged so I set to boiling my parts right away. For nearly two weeks now, I’ve had visions of increasing my milk supply back to it’s former glory to finish off my last few months of milk donation to the Mid-Atlantic Mother’s Milk Bank without the very forbidding cost of the Willow bags required by more frequent pumping. (approx. $1/ pumping session – imagine paying out $8/day to donate milk!)

    Anyhow, I am disappointed. I love the concept and ease of use for the container. It functions well. However, the design of the flange is causing me pain. I use a 27mm flange and it is 27mm at the opening but then it tapers down rather tight to the end of the flange (unique to the container flange) which has caused a black blood blister on my right side. I called Willow and was instructed to not pump on that side until it heals. Well, I’m an exclusive pumper. I have no little one to feed so I will not be increasing my milk supply after all – it looks more like I’ll be losing it because I can’t pump. Bad design especially if you’re a 27mm size. Super sad story. This was a huge investment in the lives of the little bitty humans served by our milk bank… Wasted.

    Their response by the way, was to suggest that my alignment was wrong and to set me up with a Facetime. I’ve been using Willow for months. I’m not a newbie. I’ve also used Freemie’s closed and open systems as well as Medela products. They all require centered alignment for optimal use. That is not unique to the Willow. I’ve been pumping for a full year – at one time, more than 100 ounces a day. I’m pretty sure I understand proper alignment.

    I’ve had other issues too. Flip to finish wasn’t working for my left pump. I couldn’t even do a forced flip to finish. They replaced it with a pump that also does not do a flip to finish most of the time, doesn’t read accurate volumes and will stay in stimulation mode for two full 25 minute cycles no matter which breast it’s on! Because I was using that pump on the left side, I was slowly losing milk supply in that breast.

    I desperately want to love this pump but it’s really just one issue after another…

    • Katie

      I’m sorry you’ve had such an awful experience with it. I know you are definitely not the only one based off of some other comments I have seen. I really wish the company would do something to remedy situations like yours and they have GOT to get the price of the bags under control. It’s crazy!

  • Merrian

    Thank you sooo much for this review and for referencing other pumps. I’m so overwhelmed by all these baby things and it can feel hard to find honest reviews that aren’t sponsored or something useless like unboxing. I thank you for taking the time to share.

  • Lynda

    I have also tried the willow pump, and just when I think I have one thing figured out I run into a new problem I didnt have before. The company has great customer service but other than that, TERRIBLE policies and logistics. Executive management is definitely taking advantage of women who are anxious for freedom from pumping. I ordered the 21 mm reusable container but it doesn’t come for a few weeks after you order it. This meant I had to wait to use my pump for those 3 weeks until the right size came in. When I called customer service, she said this was because the containers were new and took a little longer to get to you. Logistically, the company should have thought this through before releasing a new product and made sure it was fully ready to be shipped. I didn’t have amy issues with delivery but if you read the shipment policy they tell you that if the product is shipped back to Willow due to their commercial carrier, they will not refund you and to be aware of this (seriously???). Lastly, they do not insure their shipments so if something happens to it along the way and it never gets to you, you are out of luck. My advice is to save yourself the frustration and go for a traditional pump.

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