In-depth baby product reviews led by a Pediatrician

Willow Gen 3 Review

Unique wearable container and pump that is useful for on the go moms but expensive and complicated
Willow Gen 3
Credit: Willow
Top Pick Award
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Price:   $500 List | $500 at Amazon
Pros:  Portable, relatively quiet, wearable, useful app, stops when full
Cons:  Super spendy, bulky, complicated, limited volume
Manufacturer:   Willow
By Juliet Spurrier, MD ⋅ Mom-in-Chief  ⋅  Jan 9, 2021
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The Skinny

The WIllow Gen 3 is a closed system pump you wear inside your bra under your regular clothing. This rechargeable pump is app-driven and expresses milk as you move freely about your day, giving you time back and preventing pumping moms from being tied to an outlet or pumping station. It is relatively lightweight, quiet, hygienic, and stops automatically when the container is full. On the downside, this pump is very expensive and can cost more over your pumping life than any other we tested. It is also somewhat bulky and can give the appearance of an increase in bust size that is noticeable. Last, it is complicated and takes time to learn how to use it effectively and efficiently. While it isn't the right pump for every mom or smaller budgets, this innovative wearable pump could be just what some working moms need to stay active and on the go without sacrificing their lifestyle or working abilities while keeping up with their breastfeeding needs.

Our Analysis and Test Results

Willow set out to create a new way for moms to pump because they knew there had to be a better way. They created the first wearable and quiet all-in-one breast pump that fits inside your bra. They are headquartered in Silicone Valley and continue to work hard with new technologies and generations of the Willow to improve the pumping experience.

Performance Comparison



The Willow system is wireless and tubeless using self-contained pump...
The Willow system is wireless and tubeless using self-contained pump and collection cups in one.
Credit: Abriah Wofford

Likes


The Willow Generation 3 opens a new world of freedom for nursing mothers, particularly healthcare workers, and those where structured break times are challenging. The Willow includes two wearable, wireless, tubeless, battery-operated pumps containing collection receptacles (either a 4 oz. disposable bag or 4 oz. reusable container). The entire pumping and collection apparatus are worn beneath your shirt inside your bra. This pump is smart and will even stop on its own once the containers are full, so there is no fear of leaking or overfilling. This pump and container system is so good that you can bend over and even lay down without spilling or losing any precious milk you've already expressed.

The Willow works with an app that provides useful information like...
The Willow works with an app that provides useful information like the quantity of milk expressed and time pumping.
Credit: Abriah Wofford
Willow is a closed system battery-operated pump that will last through 4-5 pumping sessions before recharging. The pump links to an app on your smartphone that provides up to date progress on the quantity you've expressed and how long you've been pumping, so you can keep tabs without needing to look. Moms who are lucky enough to be heavy producers may need to empty the container during a pumping session to deplete their milk supply fully.

The Willow Gen 3 is an efficient pump on par with plug-in electric...
The Willow Gen 3 is an efficient pump on par with plug-in electric pumps.
Credit: Abriah Wofford

Efficency


This pump has a fairly gentle suction for the amount of milk expressed/expression during each session. Testers report a similar overall milk output to traditional electric pumps. Our tester pumped about 3.5 ounces of milk every 11 minutes on average, comparable to the traditional electric pumps known for efficient pumping capabilities.

The Willow is wearable and does the job of a collection cup and...
The Willow includes a collection container for expressed milk.

Comfort


The flanges on the containers are comfortable while pumping, and the suction is manageable. While it could take some time to get used to the Willow bulk in your bra, users report it is fairly comfortable overall. Even moms with larger breasts (DDD-H) can use the Willow without issues.

The Willow Gen 3 works with an app on your smart device recording...
The Willow Gen 3 works with an app on your smart device recording everything from ounces to time pumping. The system works well but it is somewhat bulky.
Credit: Abriah Wofford

Portability


This is one of the most portable pumps in the review as the pumps, and the containers are held inside your bra. There are no tubes or wires to contend with. It is fairly lightweight and discreet, though somewhat large.

The Willow Gen 3is  a complicated system with a steep learning curve...
The Willow Gen 3is a complicated system with a steep learning curve that includes assembly and set up.
Credit: Abriah Wofford

Hygiene


This is a closed system, so there is no backup or milk in the pump or condensation of any kind. The pump only has 4 parts to clean, and there is less milk handling than some of the other pumps as it can pump milk directly into storage bags.

Accoustics


This pump is one of the quietest in the review with an electric motor. While you can hear it, it is relatively discreet and does not relay over the phone or across the room like other wearable pumps we tested.

The Willow Gen 3 is very large and bulky, so it is not the right...
The Willow Gen 3 is very large and bulky, so it is not the right solution for all mothers.
Credit: Abriah Wofford

Dislikes


The Willow is sort of bulky, and it can look like you've gone up a cup size or two when you are wearing it. However, a well-placed scarf or shawl can help disguise the unit when pumping. Even when the Willow is off, it still keeps a continuous suction, which can grow uncomfortable the longer you leave it on, so swift removal is suggested. Some testers also feel that the suction is strong during the entire process, which could be painful or annoying to some moms.

The Willow Gen 3 is one of the most complicated systems to set up...
The Willow Gen 3 is one of the most complicated systems to set up and use in our review.
Credit: Abriah Wofford

Ease of Use


This unit is one of the most complicated options in the review, with a steep learning curve that some testers grew frustrated by as they lost milk in the learning process. Preventing accidental air from entering the collection bag is also a problem as it can't be removed once it is in there, and the flange will detach, causing the pump to stop and milk to leak. The setup could be more than a new sleep-deprived mom wants to hassle with to express milk. On the upside, Willow's customer care team is easy to contact and knowledgeable, so you can be up and pumping with a little help. It is critical to place the unit properly over your nipple for top performance and comfort, and the website provides useful information to get you on your way.

With multiple parts to assemble and clean, the Willow is not a...
You can use reusable collection cups or disposable storage bags with...

Moms with lower milk supply might struggle to use the Willow as it requires about 1/2 an ounce to be expressed before you can move freely about. If you can't or don't generate more than this, it can negate the whole reason for using this complicated system, to begin with. The stimulation phase requires the user to lean back and lasts about 2 minutes. This might not be enough time for some to produce the 1/2 an ounce necessary to switch modes.

You will need to transfer milk from the collection device if you...
You will need to transfer milk from the collection device if you don't use the disposable storage bags.
Credit: Abriah Wofford

The directions tell moms to flip the entire unit over to get the last drops of milk out of the container after pumping. When our tester attempted a milk transfer, she felt the silicone cap on the container wasn't fitted well, and it leaked. Each time she made this effort, there was less milk loss, but there was always some leakage and loss level.

Cost


One of the most significant problems with the Willow is cost. This unit's lifetime cost is more than just the initial payment as it requires other purchases down the road from a second charger (each pump requires charging and it only ones with one, to the disposable collection bags and replacement accessory parts every 3 months of use. Quick math shows that if you use their disposable bags and pump 4 times a day, it will cost you around $60 a month. If you use reusable containers, they cost $50 for two, but Willow recommends replacing them every 3 months. Also, the motor on the pumps has a shelf life of about 273 hours. If you charge 3 times a day, this adds up to 819 20 minutes sessions or around 273 workdays. To sum up, if you pump 3 times a day with 2 chargers for 3 months, it will cost $1079 using disposable bags and $630 with the reusable containers, and you'll only have 90 days left to pump before the motor reaches its shelf life.

With no wires and no tubing, this self-contained pump and collection...
With no wires and no tubing, this self-contained pump and collection system can be a girl's best friend when working or too busy to sit down for regular pumping.
Credit: Abriah Wofford

Conclusion


This pump isn't for everyone, and many mothers will find it is bulky, expensive, and far too complicated to bother with, and we hear you. However, for some busy mothers on the go, particularly in the healthcare industry, it may be just what is required to successfully remain working while continuing to breastfeed and pump regularly. This pump is lightweight, portable, and can pump while you work with relative secrecy. It comes with a useful app and is easy to clean, making it a good choice for mothers who don't have the time or place to sit and pump. Overall, if your budget allows and you need the freedom, the Willow might be just the ticket for you.

Manufacturer Video



Juliet Spurrier, MD