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The Battle of the Wearable Pump: Which is Better, the Elvie or the Willow?

feeding postpartum pumping Feb 15, 2022

Pumping does not have to be specific to moms with infants who won’t latch. It can actually be a great resource for breastfeeding moms as well. When breastfeeding to prevent clogs and mastitis if you have an oversupply you’ll want to pump after a feed. If you’re a mother with an under supply the pump can help signal your breasts to produce more if pumping right after a feed. Pumps are also handy for moms who have to go back to work but want to keep feeding their baby breastmilk. In my case, my baby was born early and my milk didn’t come in until a few days after I’d given birth. The hospital where I delivered recommended that I try to latch baby and then pump after every feed for the first few days. All was fine at the hospital where I had NICU nurses, my husband, my parents and my in laws to help step up with the baby when I pumped after a feed. However, when we got home I was suddenly finding myself pressed for time- how was I going to feed for 20 mins on each side, pump for 20 mins, sleep and eat within a 2 hour time frame on repeat? That gave me 30 mins of sleep, if I was lucky, in between feedings. Definitely not sustainable. I was desperate to find another solution while continuing to try and increase my supply and breastfeed my son. I started doing some research on the best wearable pumps that would allow me to unplug from a wall. I came across the Elvie and the Willow as two great options (there are others, but for the purposes of this post, we'll keep it simple).

I looked and looked but could not find many reviews of these pumps side by side. That makes sense- who wants to spend $500 apiece on these pumps when other electric pumps are covered by insurance? There were plenty of reviews on the Elvie and plenty on the Willow, but I couldn’t find a good comparison of the two. So I decided to go ahead and purchase both pumps so I could give you an honest, side-by-side review.

 

The Elvie

 This pump can be purchased as either a single or double. For the purposes of testing against the Willow, I’ll be talking about the double pump. Out of the box you are presented with 32 parts. These parts include 2 chargeable hubs, 4 storage bottles, 4 lids for the bottles, 2-24mm breast shields, 2-28mm breast shields, 4 valves, 4 spouts, 4 seals, 4 bra adjusters and 2 usb charging cables for your hubs. Along with this, you also get a carrying case for your pump. Before usage you’ll have to charge the Elvie but once that is done, it is fairly straightforward to put together. The Elvie pump fits into your nursing bra and can be worn around the house while doing other chores or even worn on one breast while feeding from the other. It is super easy to connect to the app and very quiet to use (granted if you’re in a quiet, enclosed office space the people around you may hear something). It does take some small adjustments to get the hang of usage in the beginning. The best way I found to ensure you’re getting the best suction is to put the breast shield on first and then stick the hub on once the shield is positioned appropriately.
 

Elvie iPhone App

 
 

From here, you can either press the play/pause button on the pump or in the app to start pumping. The app will let you switch between expression and stimulation modes. One thing to note is that if the green value on your bottle is not showing through the opening on the hub, you will not get suction from the pump.After you are finished pumping, remove the Elvie by tilting it forward and off your breast. I have yet to find a way to remove it without some leakage and there is always a few drops of milk left in the flange. The app will give you an estimate of how much you’ve collected but it’s almost always wrong. I find that I collect 10-20 mls less than what the app predicts. What’s nice about the app is that you can adjust how much you’ve collected to show the true amount and save your session in the pump history. Overall, I’d give this wearable pump a B+ compared to my spectra S2.

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The Willow

Unlike the Elvie, this pump only comes as a double. The box includes both hubs, 2 flanges (you’ll have to find your size before purchase), 2 flex tubes, 2 cleaning brushes, 24 disposal milk bags and 1 charger. Off the bat I thought it odd that the company didn’t include a second charger as each hub needs its own charge. Other important things to note: you’ll have to purchase the reusable containers separately if you won’t want to use disposal bags. The 2-pack of these costs $59.99 on Amazon or you can purchase 144 bags for $95 on Amazon. This can get expensive quickly!Pairing the Willow with my phone was a pretty easy process. I plugged and unplugged the pump, made sure my phones Bluetooth was turned on, and then the phone asked if I’d like to pair the two Willow pumps (note you pair each hub separately). Once paired, the app walked me through their quick start guide and I was ready to begin pumping.

 When first putting the pump on, you should put the flange on to make sure that your boob isn’t “smooshed” (you want it directly in the middle) and then out the hub over top. This pump can also be worn around the house doing chores or out shopping. It does seem a little louder then the Elvie though and I did need a bra extender so that I wasn’t pulling the pump to the left or right when I hooked my bra all the way up.First thing I noticed: this suction is super similar to what I get from my spectra (I typically do 70/4 or 56/6). Also, this app is super user friendly! It walks you through how much milk you’re collecting as it goes. The estimate seems to be much more accurate than the Elvie.
 

Willow iPhone App

 
 
 

Unfortunately I have not found a way to undo play/ pause the pump with the app.Once you’ve finished pumping, the Willow has a “flip to finish” feature that takes some getting used to. You’ll have to remove the pump, turn it around and then “flip” it slowly so that the milk that is still in the flex tube gets pushed into your bag or storage container. There is ALWAYS milk left in the flex tube no matter what I do! It’s pretty annoying for somebody who is a “just-enougher” like myself. Overall, I’d give this wearable an A-.

 
Major Considerations and Final Comparison Both pumps are $499 to begin. Apps are free, but you’re adding at least another $100 onto the Willow if you want a second charger and the reusable containers. If you’re planning for milk bags and exclusively pumping 5 times per day, plan to spend an extra $200/ month (10 bags per day x 30 days per month).
 

On Price: The Elvie is definitely the better deal as you do not have all of the “extras” that you must purchase when using the Willow. Despite the fact that both are marketed at the same price, your Willow will undoubtedly end up costing a fair bit more once all extra parts are added to the cost.

 

On Suction: The Willow is the definite winner in this category as it has a much better suction and I feel extracts the milk faster than the Elvie.

 

On Appearance: Both pumps are compact and fit inside a nursing bra. I am a size 36D and feel that neither pump is super noticeable when I wear them. The Willow is a little bulkier in terms of look and feel, but it also houses all of the needed items within the hub.

 

On App Usability: Both pumps have similar features. I was let down that the Willow does not have the ability to start/ stop pumping directly on the app as the Elvie does. When feeding on one side and pumping on the other, it’s nice to be able to click a button on my cell phone to stop a pump rather than having to undo clothing to reach the button. The Willow app is easier to navigate though and gives a better feel for how much you are actually pumping which is super important for all of us moms to keep track of. Furthermore, the Willow app has a cleaner, more modern look and feel which makes it seem more user-friendly.

 

Final Thoughts Overall I would have to say the Willow wins by a fraction more than the Elvie as my pick for the best wearable breast pump in 2020. Both pumps are amazing steps forward for women and truly help to revolutionize pumping, but the accuracy, suction power and usability of the Willow app make the Willow my pump pick.

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