In case you missed it, hands-free pumps are all the rage and a welcomed change for multitasking moms looking to ditch the daily seated pumping sessions. But chances are, you stumbled upon this combined review because you’re not so much wondering if a hands-free option is of interest, but which one is the best choice for you. Read on for an in-depth look at the current top models and things to consider before you buy.
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Hands-Free Pumping vs. Wireless: What’s the Difference?
First of all, it’s important to note that these two terms can be easily confused, though they mean very different things in regards to mom’s user experience.
Wireless pumps are mobile models that allow you to pump without the need for an electrical outlet thanks to a chargeable or battery operated motor. The caveats are there may still be wires connecting the pump parts (such as the freemie, freemie liberty or Medela Freestyle Flex), and you may still have to hold the pump up to your breasts or enlist the help of a combo nursing bra/hands-free pumping bra; while the on-the-go element is super helpful, it can still make pumping in certain situations—like an office meeting or during school drop-off—a bit tricky.
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Hands-free wearable pumps also offer portability and are battery operated, but each pump acts as its own wire-free unit with an independent motor and milk bag collection system. This means that when you want to have a double pump, you’ll actually own two individual breast pumps to wear directly inside your bra. These models give mom tons of freedom and offer discreet expression anywhere at anytime without the bulk of a traditional pump-and-pumping-bra combo. The process is less clunky and can be especially helpful if you only need to pump on one side, or if you like to pump while you breastfeed from the opposite side and don’t want to use a silicone collection cup, such as the haakaa.
Features Comparison: Willow vs. Elvie Pump
Here’s the breakdown of the main distinctions between the Elvie and Willow:
Keep scrolling for additional details on their differences …
Breast Pump Price
Both double sets run for about $500. However, you can purchase either a single ($279 list price) or double pump with the Elvie, but only have the option to buy a double with Willow. The Willow offers financing through Affirm, while Elvie works with PayPal for monthly installments as low as $46 a month. Both accept FSA/HSA funds and both ship for free.
Another thing to note is if you’re in the US, you’re entitled to a free breast pump through your insurance. However, policy coverage dictates what types of free pumps fall within your network and may limit your choices. It is common for policies to not offer full reimbursement for the Willow or Elvie, but you may still receive a discounted price for your out-of-pocket expense. Check with third-party resources like Aeroflow Breastpumps to check your qualification status and shop for pumps.
Milk Storage Capacity
You’ll want to think about how you plan to store your breast milk and your storage needs before selecting the “buy now” button.
The Elvie comes with reusable 5-ounce bottles that can be stored in the fridge or freezer. It does not allow for disposable bags, meaning if you plan to store large quantities, you’ll have to buy separate storage bags and plan to transfer the milk after each session—which can be a hassle.
On the other hand, The Willow allows mom to pump directly into disposable bags or a reusable container. This spill-proof bag design makes for easier, more efficient storage with zero transfers and more mobility for mom (bending over, lying down, etc.), though at 4 ounces a piece, you’ll be replacing bags more often if you choose to go that route. If you’re exclusively pumping, it would be wise to buy the reusable milk container to get more bang for your buck, as a pack of 48 bags will cost you $24, and you’ll use two (or more) bags per session. For example: If you pump five times a day and use 10 bags minimum, you’ll need around 300 per month, which costs upwards of $168 per month—cha-ching!
It’s important to reiterate that both models come with small collection containers and may not be able to keep up with every mom’s production needs. If you pump more than the bag or bottle holds, each pump will automatically stop to avoid overflowing. Both companies assure that it’s quick and easy to pause and replace a bag or bottle, but this is not always realistic and may be a dealbreaker for some. These models may be best suited as secondary pumps to a traditional double-electric breast pump that serves a greater output. For moms that overproduce or have high supplies, the Willow and Elvie probably would not work well as a primary pump.
The only time you’ll need an outlet with a hands-free pump is for charging. In this instance, both models take about two hours to reach a full charge.
If you’re short on time, the Willow boasts a 20-minute charge will get you through your next pumping session, and that a full charge should last about five sessions. The Elvie lasts around 2.5 hours on a full charge, but does specify that level of intensity affects longevity.
You will receive two charging cables with the Elvie (if purchased as a double), but will need to buy an additional charger for the Willow if you want to charge both at the same time.
Breast Shield Sizes
In addition to finding the right pump, moms need to ensure they’re using the properly sized breast shield to protect their nipples and encourage a positive breastfeeding and pumping experience. Note that sizes other than the ones listed below are not supported for use by either pump.
The Elvie comes with 24mm and 28mm shields (often called flanges), and a pack of 21mm shields can be purchased separately. Shields are sized based on the width of the base of your nipple. Remember that nipple size can change over the course of your breastfeeding journey, so hold onto additional shield sizes just in case! For help with Elvie Pump sizing, click here.
Willow offers 21mm (with the reusable container), 24mm and 27mm. They encourage moms to find their best flange size with a ruler app on their phone. For more information and details on measuring, check out this sizing guide resource.
As a whole, both models are closed systems and offer seven different intensity levels of suction, but Willow operates using the first three levels in the stimulation phase, and then allows for the remaining levels post-expression. Both pumps have the ability to sense your milk letdown and will automatically switch to expression mode when ready.
Elvie makes an important point that your highest comfortable setting is usually your most efficient setting for a higher amount of milk production, so they recommend trying out different levels until you find the right fit. Tension causes stress, which can affect your milk supply, so try to relax and ease into it!
Willow and Elvie have apps available for iOS and Android devices. The apps are downloadable from the app store and can be connected to your pump.
Universal features include the ability to power your pump on or off, adjust the intensity of suction strength during pumping, track your output for current sessions and see your overall production overtime for each breast.
Both pumps can also connect via Bluetooth, which has raised questions in regards to safety. Willow states that it meets all applicable safety standards for safe Bluetooth use during pumping, while Elvie explains they use Bluetooth Low Energy with lower emission; more details can be found here.
Both company websites offer extensive FAQs and troubleshooting content to help you quickly find the answers or solutions to questions or problems that might pop up.
If you still need to contact a live person, Elvie customer care team can be reached at email@example.com. Willow’s customer service is available over the phone or via text during business hours at 1-888-WILLOW-3 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please remember that the Willow and Elvie cannot be returned once opened. If your pump or accessories are damaged, you have a two-year warranty with Elvie Pump and 90 days on the pump parts; the Willow includes a one-year warranty from date of purchase as well as replacement parts for 90 days.