Willow starts it all, at least when it comes to wearable breast pumps.
I remember seeing the first version of Willow’s wearable breast pumps at CES 2017. It was one of the buzziest devices to come out of the show, and while I was years from ever needing one, I was thrilled to see something that would make future motherhood a little easier.
Years later, here I am, finally trying wearable breast pumps left and right, which includes the third generation of the original Willow breast pump. It has one of the highest price tags on the market, but also does some of the coolest tricks out of any pump I’ve tried. I’m genuinely impressed.
“Smart” is overused these days. Many times it just means that something can connect to the internet, even though smart should mean that the software within the product can come to independent conclusions to improve your life. For example, the Nest smart thermostat heats or cools your home based on your schedule, or where you live.
The Willow 3.0 has sensors built into it to sense when milk is expressed, so it will switch over from stimulation (a gentler mode) to expression (a stronger mode), all on its own. Most pumps that do this on their own switch around two minutes by default, or you have to switch it yourself manually. It’s nice to be able to pop the Willow on and knowing it will switch over by itself at the right time for your body, rather than just because of a timer.
The Willow also measures how much milk is expressed while in use, so you can check the app to see how much you’re pumping. I found it to be shockingly accurate—it was always within a quarter of an ounce of what the app told me was pumped. And it didn’t let my past pumping results influence what it thought I had pumped, either. It told me once I had only managed to pump 0.7 ounces on one side and 0.4 on the other, and when I removed the pump and checked the ounces in my regular Lasinoh bottle, I found those results to be painfully correct.
It’s good that the Willow is so accurate because you can’t see into the pump at all. Unlike other wearable pumps, including Willow’s own Willow Go (8/10, WIRED Recommends), the milk container isn’t visible at all for you to check your progress, so you’re dependent on the app to tell you how your session is going.
Don’t Miss a Step
Unfortunately, you need to follow steps precisely to use it.
To use it, you have to let it “latch” onto the breast and create a seal, and you have to properly de-latch it by turning off the suction and using a finger to pop the seal—not unlike what you would do for a small baby while nursing. The Willow app will guide you through this, but I often found myself coming back to the instructions to do it correctly. And it’s more difficult to pop off and rearrange the pump if you didn’t get the angle right the first time.