Is the Willow Hands-Free Pump worth it? - An Honest Review of the Willow Breast Pump | Words from a Mama
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 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 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. 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