Does the Willow Breast Pump Work? My Honest Willow Pump Review
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For all you mamas out there who pump, The Willow® Pump sounds like a dream too good to be true…a cordless 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 to care for a baby, a toddler, or to actually get 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 Description:
The Willow® 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 have been 3 different versions of the pump so far: the Willow 1.0, 2.0 and 3.0. I used the 1.0, and it has come quite a long way since then. The 2.0 version is listed at $399.99, and the newer 3.0 version is $499.99. The biggest difference between the two recent versions is the ability to pump into reusable containers in the newest version. This is a MAJOR upgrade that I am super happy to hear they made. 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
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+). The reusable containers cost $49.99 for a set. Highly worth the one-time investment in my opinion.
My Personal Experience with the Willow Pump
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.
My Experience Using the Willow Breast 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 and 3.0 come in. Since the newer versions have 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).
Tips and tricks on using the Willow Pump
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. Definitely a bit more challenging compared to a traditional pump.
Additionally, while the bags are supposed to hold 4 ounces, I have never gotten them to hold that full amount. There was always at least a small amount of air…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. I would highly, highly recommend purchasing the reusable milk containers to avoid this headache of wasted bags.
Product Snags and Willow Pump 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 of the Wearable Willow Breast Pump 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.
Can you use the Willow Pump anywhere?
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. I did so on many trips and was grateful I had the Willow pump!
Sound and Discreetness of the Willow Pump:
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).
- 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.
- 3 flange sizes now available: 21 mm, 24 mm and 27mm.
- Reuasble milk containers an option to reduce waste and to save money.
- Smart Suction Technology adjusts automatically based on preferences to increase output. This means you can go truly hands-free and not worry about monitoring and pressing buttons during the session.
- 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). However with the new version, you can get around this my purchasing the reusable bags.
- 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 $399.99 for 2.0 and $499.99 for 3.0 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.
Final Verdict on the Willow Pump:
Honestly, I think the final verdict depends on your situation and how strong a need you have for the mobility this pump provides.
I did personally love this pump once I got past the technical issues and over the learning curve. It came in super handy when traveling, and I really appreciated having the mobility while pumping and chasing a toddler. With the upgrade in the 3.0 version to having reusable milk containers as an option, I would absolutely purchase again if I ever had a 3rd baby.
When I was an exclusive pumper (like with my first born), I probably would have wanted to use both this and my traditional pump as well…due sheer volume I pumped at certain times like in the morning. 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.
If you are interested in purchasing you can use this link to Save 15% for a limited time with code PUMPTOIT.
Alternatives to the Willow Breast Pump – Willow vs. Elvie
One alternative I have heard of for a hands-free option is the Elvie. I haven’t personally used the Elvie pump, but I have heard great things. It doesn’t require bags, but it is often sold out and difficult to find. I did some research on the Elvie and found these differences:
- The Elvie pumps more ounces per bag or container 5 oz. vs. 4 oz. for Willow
- The Elvie is not spill-proof like the Willow Pump
- The Elvie Pump has 5 parts to clean versus 2 for the Willow Pump
- The Elvie is nearly silent, while the Willow is just quiet
- The price point of the Elvie Pump and the Willow Pump are identical at $499 list price, but may vary with discounts
- Both the Willow and the Elvie have 7 levels of suction
I also do love love love my Spectra pump (if you are looking at a traditional option). It’s incredible, and I highly recommend it.
Willow Pump – Frequently Asked Questions:
Is willow pump covered by insurance?
It depends on your provider. You can find a whole guide on insurance coverage for the Willow Pump here on their website. Willow has a partnership with Healthy Baby Essentials, a durable medical equipment provider. They can receive your information and check for coverage with your insurance provider. You can find more information on this process here. My Willow Pump was not covered by insurance.
Does willow pump work on large breasts?
Yes, absolutely. The size of your breasts does not hinder your ability to use this pump. You’ll just need to make sure you have a stretchy bra or one with a bit of room to fit the pump inside. What matters more than breast size for using the Willow Pump is your nipple size. Willow Flanges and Containers are available in sizes 21mm, 24mm and 27mm. You can use the printable guide at Willow to determine your flange size if you are unsure.
Are willow pump bags reusable?
The Willow spill-proof milk bags are not reusable; however the more recently introduced Milk containers absolutely are. As I mentioned in my review, I would highly recommend investing in the reusable milk containers if you purchase a Willow Pump. They are just way more cost effective.
Are willow pump bags freezable?
Yes, the Willow Pump bags are freezable. I froze many of them during my time using this pump with no issues at all.
Is willow pump hospital grade?
No, hospital-grade pumps require a closed system and have extremely high suction standards. Using they are rented because the cost of purchasing can be prohibitive. The Willow Pump does have strong suction, but it isn’t considered hospital-grade.
Have you tried the Willow® Pump? If so, let me know your thoughts in the comments below.
Thanks for stopping by! Of you enjoyed this post you should check out these tips for pumping as a working mom.