It’s me again, hanging out here, halfway through February, and stunned at just how fast baby Jakey is growing up.
Like… holy shit, my baby boy is a little chatterbox, teething (which I’ll write an entirely separate blog post about in the future), laughing, and intrigued with the world around him.
He’s practically a person!
HE’S PRACTICALLY IN COLLEGE!
Alright, existential mom moment aside, we’re here to talk business. Big business for some of us, as the Willow Breast Pump is a pretty hot topic of discussion amongst new moms. Especially those of us who are breast pumping exclusively.
If you’ve never heard of the Willow Breast Pump, then this post might be especially intriguing to you.
The Willow Breast Pump is a completely portable, chargeable, wearable breast pump that fits inside your bra.
The whole schtick is a discreet pumping experience that doesn’t lock you down in one place. For those of us who pump exclusively, this is an ESPECIALLY important feature, as I know I spend about 2-3 hours during my day just pumping breast milk.
I hadn’t originally intended to pump exclusively. So, to be honest, I didn’t re-e-eally give a damn about the fine details of my original pump. I asked some of my other mommy friends for their suggestions, and just ordered the Medela Pump In Style Breast Pump.
The Medela was a fine pump. I don’t have any complaints, though there were a few growing pains at the beginning.
If you’ve read some of my previous posts, like [this one] and [this one], I mention that I happen to have smaller than average nipples.
Anyway, once I got the correct flanges, things went fine with the Medela Pump. it was comfortable; it worked, no complaints… other than the fact that I felt like a cow latched to a stall for upwards of an hour.
(I had to make my boobs work overtime) those first few weeks due to my milk supply being low from an inducement and c-section- as well as the fact that I quickly realized my kid just preferred to be bottle-fed.
After a while, I got frustrated with my lack of mobility and privacy. I hated having to skulk off into another room when we had friends over just to sit by myself and pump.
I solved some of the privacy issues by purchasing “Freemie” breast pump attachments for the Medela, which also worked just fine… but I just HATED feeling stuck in one place.
And with my husband going back to work the day after New Year’s, I knew that I was going to have a HELL of a time trying to take care of Jake AND devote so much time to pumping.
I was extra motivated for an alternative solution once I realized my son wasn’t the best napper. We’re lucky that he sleeps pretty exceptionally at night; otherwise, he usually only snoozes for 15-30 minutes at a time during the day.
Ironically, as I type this, he has been sleeping for over an hour. That’s the longest nap he’s take in… well… gosh, a month, maybe?
Anyway, I had heard of- and was researching, the Willow Breast Pump most of December. I thought it was cool, but hated the steep price tag of FIVE-HUNDRED-DOLLARS, as well as the cost of having to invest in the NON-REUSABLE BAGS that are, roughly, fifty cents per bag!
The Willow 2.0 Breast Pump seemed like an excellent solution to my problem.
But… and this is a BIG “but“-
– because the Willow Pump was an item that you could not return, and I had heard some very notable flaws, I was super reluctant to consider making such a huge investment.
Eventually, I decided I would rather take the risk to attain freedom than continue to feel like a farm animal with no mobility.
Buying my pump off of eBay seemed like the best option. So I was able to find a brand new Willow 2.0 Breast Pump on eBay for about one-hundred-dollars less than the initial cost.
As well, Willow introduced a REUSABLE Milk Collector that had flanges in my size, and so I bit the bullet.
I will give you a quick synopsis of my thoughts before going into detail: I think it’s one of the best inventions ever created for moms.
… and I also understand why people do not like it.
The Willow Breast Pump has been a real sordid affair for me. I can’t imagine my life as a new mom without it, while simultaneously finding myself resisting the urge to chuck it into a wall.
With that said, I will now go into my experience with the Willow Breast Pump as an exclusively pumping mom.
My Initial Impressions… and the First Problem
I was super happy with my eBay experience, so I’ll start with that.
My purchase was quick, the delivery came right on time, and my pump was in MINT condition. It was clear that the product was brand new and never touched.
So, a huge relief…
I also found the packaging to be very appealing, everything was neat and orderly, and the initial set up was okay.
… but also where I ran into my first problem lol.
I followed the direction to start my first pumping session, only for the Willow App to suddenly advise me in the middle of the session that it needed to update to function correctly.
No big deal, I thought…
But the issue was: each time I would follow the instructions to update, the update would crash before it could finish the installation.
I tried several times to restart the process, as I knew the wifi could be spotty at my house, so there was a chance I was having an issue with the BlueTooth, but nothing seemed to work.
Que quite a bit of time and frustration later as I tried to troubleshoot this issue and search for problems online. I was freaking out because I thought I had already broken, and I was like
“there goes $400 right down the fucking drain!”
After some intense googling, I was able to reset the pumps and solve the issue. Though, my stress level was already through the roof at that point, as I had been so excited to use them, only to be forced to use my old pump set-up until I figured out how to fix it.
On top of freaking out that I had broken the pumps!
So, if you plan on purchasing a Willow Breast Pump, make sure you install any updated BEFORE you try to pump.
This might sound obvious, but I had no warning about this in the directions until I was in the middle of pumping, and the app started its shit, so just make sure you run the app first.
Is The Willow Breast Pump Comfortable?
Short answer, it seems to depend on the woman. I don’t find it super painful- BUT at the end of the day, my nips are sore and need a break.
I would not say that pumping with the Willow Breast Pump is as comfortable as using a traditional breast pump, but that is due to logistical factors that I can’t hold against the product, itself.
One of the reasons I have found Willow uncomfortable is that it is a relatively large device. The pump has many mechanicians it must preform, so even though it’s portable, it’s still a lot of weight pulling on your nipple.
They do advise using a full coverage bra to use the Willow properly. However, I still find it a bit uncomfortable. Not enough that it prevents a letdown, but I wouldn’t say I enjoy the experience.
It also has pretty strong suction, much stronger than a typical breast pump to start. This is a blessing and a curse, as it means more discomfort to your boobs, but you don’t sacrifice power for portability.
Adversely, I’ve heard of some women who can’t even use it because they found it so painful.
The remedies that I’ve heard to help the pain include: using coconut oil as a lubricant for the flange; make sure your flange is aligned correctly; and use nipple cream after pumping.
If you’re looking for good nipple cream, this is the one I have.
All in all, I would say that while it’s no spa day, I find it more than tolerable most of the time.
I’ve also learned, due to the Willow’s powerful suction, I don’t have to pump as long during sessions as I used to. So, as long as I don’t overdo it, I don’t have any prolonged discomfort.
Also, another tip: make sure your bra is loose enough. If your bra is too tight, it might feel more secure, but you’re going to feel a lot of discomfort. I’ll talk about how I discovered this a bit later.
Is The Willow Really As Discreet As It Claims
I mean, it is definitely more discreet than a traditional breast pump. However, as mentioned earlier, I have a large bust WITHOUT them producing milk, so I DO think I look a little silly when I’m wearing them.
Do I care?
No, not really. Sometimes I’ve had people come to the door, and it’s the first thing they notice, so I feel a little bad for THEM, but I’m not that concerned.
As far as the noise factor? I would not say that they are virtually silent, but they’re not distracting. If there are ambient noises and conversation, it’s unlikely the people around you might notice the noise.
My husband and I have a little joke that I’m a 3D printer, as the pump sounds a LOT like a standard office printer when in use.
As long as I don’t wear a plunging shirt or a form-fitting shirt with no elasticity, I’ve never had a problem concealing them under my clothes.
I know some other moms say that they have used them at work or while shopping, but I have yet to do so
To give you a general idea of the bra to boob to willow ratio you’re dealing with: each breast pump is about four inches deep, and about six inches long (this is a rough estimate, as I’m just kind of eye-balling them because I’m too lazy to find a ruler).
Does The Willow Breast Pump Leak?
I can say, after using it exclusively for a month and a half, the Willow Breast Pump does NOT leak at all.
The ONLY time I’ve ever had the Willow leak is due to my error when transferring milk from the reusable cup to a storage bottle.
And THAT only happens because I either forget to “lock” the flex tube-which is just a little switch, or I didn’t notice the tiny bit of milk left in the flange.
Otherwise, I have never had Willow leak. It’s fantastic not to have to worry about ruining a shirt, or losing precious titty tonic.
(I swear to god, I would have never imagined I would view boob milk as more precious than gold… but nothing pisses me off worse than if I spill some breastmilk, or it gets wasted)
I’m telling you, one of my biggest gripes with traditional pumps was leakage due to incorrect alignment or just the universe being in a shitty mood that day. All it takes is just looking down and seeing your underboob soaked to make you want to throw a tantrum.
This feature, by far, is what I am most impressed with, as even despite my unusual flange size, the Willow has never leaked on me.
This is mainly because it won’t begin pumping unless you are correctly aligned. This takes a bit of practice, but you get used to it.
How Long Is Willow Breast Pump Battery Life?
I usually find that I can get about 3 hours of life per charge, though I often just make sure I charge them when not in use.
Would you like to know one of my biggest pet peeves with the Willow Breast Pump?
Well, you’re gonna!
Willow provides you with only ONE charging cable, and that means only one pump can charge at a time.
If you want a second charger, then you have to purchase one for another THIRTY DOLLARS.
I’m sorry, if I’m going to spend FIVE-HUNDRED-DOLLARS on a piece of rechargeable equipment, it should come with the accessories needed to charge the product efficiently. I should not need to switch back and forth, trying to remember which one was lower on battery… or be forced to spend MORE MONEY.
I’ve only had the battery die once on me when I needed it, due to me forgetting which pump was lower on battery. You can only tell by the app or if it turns from green to yellow.
It also maintains its power until it dies, I don’t notice any issues with suction as the battery gets closer to running out.
As strong as the suction power is, I just can’t get over the shitty “gotcha” of only sending one power supply when you charge so much money for a product that relies entirely on battery life.
I’ve also read in several places that the Willow Breast Pump has an expected life span of 12 months (basically, just long enough to survive the standard breastfeeding schedule).
I find this almost equally aggregious because it is kind of urging you to buy ANOTHER ONE if you decide to have a second baby.
I’ll be sure to do a follow-up post when I’m done breastfeeding and let you know if I think the Willow Breast Pump 2.0 has fallen off or has a longer life than expected.
Is The Willow Pump Easy To Use?
In theory, yes, but I’ll share some of my few my biggest frustrations when using the pump regularly.
Firstly, Willow works in tandem with the app. The app lets you know (or is supposed to) how much you’re pumping, when the pump is full, when the battery is low, etc…
I would say that Willow accurately records this information maybe forty percent of the time.
I’m being generous…
More times than not, the Willow GROSSLY overestimates how much your pumping, and MOST frustratingly, the pump stops once it thinks it is full, and you can’t continue pumping until you empty it.
More times than not, my pump will tell me it’s full, and it’s usually only half full.
This is… SO ANNOYING when you’re in the middle of something and have to stop. Last night, I had barely pumped half an ounce before the pump shut itself off.
I’m not exactly sure what I’m doing wrong as far as cleaning, because I clean them thoroughly after every use.
That is another one of my biggest problems with the Willow Pump. I feel this issue eliminates the convenience quite a bit. It is very frustrating having to stop taking care of a fussy baby to empty my pump after 3 minutes, and there’s only 1.5 oz in the collector cup.
The other issue is that the tiny little flange which helps control the airflow dies very quickly and needs replacing. There was a solid day and a half where one of my pumps was unusable, and I could not figure out what was wrong. I even reached out to customer service.
Finally, after a lot of messing around, a youtube video happened to start in the background, and it showed me a really helpful tip about how you can use the flange from the willow bags (which you get a set of bags that comes with the pumps) to replace them for the reusable cup.
Here’s a link to the video…
This super hero walks you step-by-step on how to do it. Not only does this help you prolong the life of your pump without spending any cash, but if you choose to purchase the reusable cup, it also gives you a reason to use the bags that come with your pump.
Personal Willow Breast Pump Insights & Experiences
So, as you can see, my thoughts and feelings on the Willow can be pretty polarized. The convenience is worth any of the hassle, in my opinion, but there are hassles.
My most recent issue was a pain in my right nip even when I wasn’t pumping.
Like, it really hurt, and I couldn’t figure out why. Obviously, and unfortunately, when you exclusively pump, you can’t take a “day off,” or your supply will drop.
And I had worked TOO DAMN HARD to build my supply to risk losing it over pain.
But it still sucked, and I couldn’t figure out what had happened, because it was enough discomfort that I was gritting my teeth while pumping.
Do you remember what I said earlier about making sure your bra wasn’t too tight?
Well, I only figured it out because of this situation. After some googling, I read a few comments saying that if the Willow was pressed too firmly to your boob, it could clog ducts, and that could cause pain.
So, after making sure my bra was looser than I preferred and quite a bit of massaging, I worked out the clogs and feel fine now. But, just be aware of this. I find that pumping is both more and less uncomfortable. I am getting used to the extra gravity, but the lack of pressure on my boob is nice, too.
Final Thoughts On The Willow Breast Pump
Overall, Willow Breast Pump has improved my life immensely, and it was worth every penny… and it costs a LOT of pennies.
While there are definitely drawbacks, I feel as though these will be improved upon as each new iteration of this pump is released.
Now, Willow has a competitor in the form of the Evie Breast Pump, I have not used the Evie, nor do I plan on shelling out another several hundred dollars to test it out.
I do know from my research that a ton of people love it, and it has a ton of great features that people like over the Willow.
After using portable breast pumps, I believe they need to be covered by insurance for future moms. I think it makes a HUGE impact on the pumping experience, both logistically and emotionally.
I strongly recommend researching on your own, as well. While I’m not sure if/when the Willow breast pump will be covered by insurance, but on the WIllow FAQ they claim that:
“… some Moms have told us that they have been able to obtain full or partial reimbursement for their Willow Wearable Breast pump through insurance…” –Frequently Asked Questions | Willow: Wearable Breast Pump. https://www.willowpump.com/faq/
– so, definitely check with your insurance provider if the only thing stopping you from trying Willow is the price tag.
(or Evie- I’d love to hear from any moms in the comments if they’ve used the Evie and their opinions on it)
I hope that this Willow Breast Pump review has been helpful to you in your breast pump research. I can say, as an exclusively pumping mom, I can’t imagine having to spend the next year strapped to one spot with a baby and such to take care of.
The Willow has its flaws and can be a frustrating piece of equipment to use. Still, I find the pros have outweighed the cons, and I genuinely look forward to seeing how this technology advances for future moms, because in a few years… I have a feeling portable breast pumping will become a great deal more common reality.
I hope you had a fabulous Valentine’s and Galentine’s Day, my friends!
Until next week!
Take it e-e-easy!