Of all the less-than-fun parts of being a new mom—the 2 a.m. scream sessions, the spit-up-covered clothes, the diaper blowouts—there’s nothing I dread more than pumping. I know I’m lucky to be able to nurse. But squeezing milk out of my body into a machine is annoying, time-consuming, and—when I think too hard about it—pretty dehumanizing.
Fortunately, there are more options available to breastfeeding parents than ever before. And they're designed to make the chore more manageable and less frustrating.
Take Willow’s breast pumps that you can put right inside your bra—no cords or outlet connection required. I recently got a chance to try out the Willow 3.0 Wearable Breast Pump ($549) and found it transforms pumping into something that becomes part of your day, rather than requiring you to put your whole day on hold.
Why the Willow 3.0 Wearable Breast Pump stands out
I first started pumping with a Medela model that was covered by my insurance and recommended by my OB as a good starter option. A standard electric pump, it left me with a bunch of plastic cords and bottles dangling from my boobs, connected to a machine that plugged into the wall. Though I'm fortunate to work from home so I could use it right at the kitchen table, I was constantly yelling to my husband for help: "Will you bring me water?” “Can you let the dog out?” All I could do for the 30 minutes it took to pump was type on my laptop or scroll through my phone (which, to be fair, is more than I can say for the manual pump I tried.) Once I'd finish, I’d have 10 different parts to clean and sanitize before I could use it again. Tl;Dr—it wasn't exactly convenient or conducive to a working mom's schedule that was more packed than ever before.
In contrast, the Willow 3.0 is designed to let you not only unplug from the wall, but to be able to move in 360 degrees while pumping. While I wouldn’t exactly recommend trying to do a workout with it on, I've found it lives up to its promise not to leak while on the move: I've worn it while walking around the house, bending over to feed the dog, lying on the sofa, making dinner—and never had a spill while pumping, or even felt it get loose. The suction is air tight.
Without a bunch of gadgets wiring my body to the wall, I can pump and get on with my life at the same time.
How it works
When you want to pump with the Willow 3.0, you charge each of the two pumps by plugging them into an outlet, and a green light lets you know when they’re ready. They can last for up to five sessions on one charge. Assembly involves three parts that snap together, plus a self-sealing milk bag or a reusable milk container. Once you’ve put the pumps inside your bra (Willow recommends wearing a stretchy nursing bra without any underwire) you power each one on, push start, and it will pump for the next 25 minutes, or until you've expressed four ounces per side.
Although you have to be careful to center the device directly over your nipple, an accompanying app tracks your output the entire time so you can quickly tell if something’s not right. There have been a couple instances when I haven’t placed it correctly on the first try, so I've had to stop and adjust the position, which is simple to do so, almost like fixing a removable cup on your bra.
The app also lets you increase or decrease the suction to one of seven different levels if you feel like you should be getting more milk, or if it’s pinching too hard.
I knew I'd love the freedom that not being attached to a wall would give me. But there were also a few things I learned once I actually tried it out. Some words advice, from one mom to another.
1. Be patient: It takes some practice
When I was first looking into pumps, my OB recommended starting with a more traditional model at first, and now I get why. Although the Willow definitely streamlines the process and makes you feel more human than dairy cow, the learning curve is a bit steeper.
The first time I tried using the Willow, I had to read over the instructions in the app and the manual multiple times before figuring out how exactly to set it up and have it latch correctly. Once I finished pumping, I messed up the final steps, and ended up with breast milk all over our kitchen counter. The pump is supposed to suck up the remaining drops of the milk into the bags when you finish your session, but it took me a few tries to get the hang of the tilting motion that makes that happen.
It also took some practice before I figured out how to center the pumps correctly on my nipple and choose the right amount of suction in order to get as much milk as I was used to seeing from a pumping session.
Luckily, if you get confused like I did, the app has a whole Help section with a Quick Start guide covering things like assembly and cleaning, plus 20 short how-to videos that walk you through each step. It’s also easy to contact customer care if you’d prefer to have someone to talk you through it.
2. You still might want some privacy while you pump
Although you can move around as you please while you wear the Willow, I personally wouldn’t go outside with it on, since I look like I’m wearing a rounded, robotic version of Madonna’s iconic cone bra inside my shirt. Not exactly a style I'm comfortable with the neighbors seeing...
But I definitely appreciate that the design lets me zip up a hoodie over the pumps to keep warm, unlike when I’ve got a bunch of plastic and wires hanging off of my chest. But it all comes down to personal preference.
3. The post-pump cleanup process is far easier
One thing I love: Once I’m done pumping, I only have four dishwasher-safe parts to clean. Thank you, Willow!
If you’re looking for more mobility during pumping, and a more streamlined process from start to finish, the Willow delivers. It just takes some getting used to. The Willow 3.0 typically costs $549, but part of that price can be covered by insurance. Other pumps, like the Go™ Wearable Breast Pump ($264) and accessories like milk bags and replacement parts are also great, helpful additions. Add them to your cart to make #momlife a little more manageable.
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