Elvie vs Willow: Best Wearable Breast Pump (2023)
Elvie vs Willow 3.0? If you’re curious on which one is the best wearable breast pump, then you might already be aware of why wearable breast pumps are the latest craze in the breastfeeding world.
One of the most difficult parts of pumping milk for new moms is being attached to a plug-in-the-wall unit multiple times a day, without the ability to walk around and get anything done. It’s frustrating and time-consuming, especially if you’re a working mom.
*This post contains affiliate links, which means if you click on the link and make a purchase, I’ll earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. All opinions remain my own.
That’s exactly what pushed me to buy the Willow breast pump before I started breastfeeding my second child. I remembered all the hours I spent with my first baby tied to a chair either nursing or pumping.
By the time I was breastfeeding my second, I also had a toddler to run after and couldn’t afford to sit still for hours. I was in search of a better and more efficient way to express breast milk while still being able to get chores done and tend to my kids.
Wearable breast pump products like the Elvie and the Willow have figured out how to solve that problem by allowing you to pump breast milk without wires, tubes, or plugs holding you back.
Read on to learn about how wearable breast pumps work, and the pros and cons of the two best hands-free breast pumps on the market: the Elvie and the Willow 3.0.
*Note that Elvie and Willow also offer more affordable alternative pumps, the Elvie Stride and the Willow Go. This review will only compare the Elvie pump and Willow 3.0.
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What is a Wearable Breast Pump?
Wearable breast pumps, also known as hands-free breast pumps, are wireless and portable pumps. Because a hands-free pump doesn’t have long tubes or wires, it gives you the freedom to walk around and do other tasks while expressing breast milk.
You simply hold the pump in place in your nursing bra and follow the instructions for latching it appropriately to your nipple. Then, feel free to pump on the go!
Are Wearable Breast Pumps Worth It?
For busy moms who want to be able to move around while pumping, for moms who travel often, for moms that commute to and from work, YES, they are absolutely worth it.
The benefits of wearable breast pumps are that they are:
- Portable. Because they are small and discreet, you can pack them easily in your purse and take them wherever you’re going.
- Wire and cord-free. No wires and no cords means you have the freedom to walk around and do chores or other activities while pumping.
- Convenient for work. Wearable breast pumps are easy to carry to and from work and are discreet and quiet enough that you can comfortably pump in your office.
- Easy to clean. Wearable breast pumps like the Elvie and the Willow are much easier to clean than a traditional pump because they have less parts and are dishwasher safe.
However, they’re not perfect and don’t always work as well as a traditional pump. They will have less suction than a hospital-grade Medela, for example. When my milk production decreased, I ended up having to rent a Medela to increase my milk production and alternated with the Willow when I wanted the freedom to move around.
Wearable breast pumps can also be expensive if your insurance doesn’t cover it. You may find that some less expensive hands-free breast pumps, like the Momcozy pump, will suit your needs just as well as the Elvie and the Willow.
What is the Best Wearable Breast Pump?
Two of the best wearable breast pumps on the market are the Elvie and the Willow 3.0 breast pumps. Neither the Elvie nor the Willow require any long tubing, making them totally discreet.
However, these two breast pumps also have their differences which are important to keep in mind when you’re trying to decide which one is right for you.
Here, I will compare them on numerous categories.
Each the Willow 3.0 and the Elvie costs $549. The Elvie allows you to purchase a single pump for $299.99. However, you’ll likely want to add another breast pump so you can pump milk from both breasts at the same time. So, purchasing both of them at once is more economical.
Both pumps are FSA/HSA eligible and may also be covered at least partially by your insurance plan. Make sure to call your insurance company to learn more about the options you have for coverage.
For the price, the Willow comes with:
- (2) Willow pumps
- (2) 24mm flanges (other flange sizes can be purchased for an additional cost of $19.99)
- (2) Flextubes
- (24) 4oz disposable milk bags
- (2) Cleaning brushes
- (1) Charger
The Elvie comes with:
- (2) “Hubs” (the pump mechanism)
- (4) 5oz bottles
- (4) Breast shields (2 of each size, 24mm and 28mm)
- (4) Valves
- (4) Spouts
- (4) Seals
- (4) Storage lids
- (4) Bra adjusters
- (2) USB charging cables
- (2) Carry bags
As you can see, the Willow has less pump parts in general, so it comes with less. However, the Willow only offers 1 charger for two breast pumps (you can purchase another for an additional cost) so you have to charge them one at a time, whereas the Elvie comes with 2 USB charging cables.
The Elvie also offers two different sizes of flanges where Willow will only give you a choice of one size. I found this to be annoying since it took me a while of using it to realize I needed a different flange size and had to purchase more flanges. A 2 pack of flanges with Willow costs $29.99.
Willow also has a bundle that comes with 2 reusable milk containers for $559. If you had to buy them separately, a 2-pack of reusable bottles costs $49.99!! Even their proprietary bag costs $29.99 for a pack of 48 bags, and these go fast.
I ended up having to spend so much money on additional accessories with the Willow that I soon realized the Elvie would have been much more economical since it comes with more at the initial purchase.
I also like that Elvie offers a bra extender because with the Willow, I had to purchase larger nursing bras to accommodate the space for the pumps.
Both the Elvie and Willow are small and sized to be discreet while wearing them on the go. However, the Elvie is considerably smaller than the Willow. The Willow made me look really busty, but I think it would be less noticeable on a small-chested woman.
When I wore my Willow, I tried to wear big loose tops to make it less obvious. Undercover Mama, one of my favorite online stores for nursing and breastfeeding, has great tops for discreet pumping.
With regard to flange sizes, Willow offers 3 flange sizes: 21mm, 24mm, and 27mm and sizing inserts for 15mm, 17mm, 19mm.
Elvie also offers 3 breast shields sizes 21mm, 24mm and 28mm. The 24mm and 28mm breast shields come with the initial purchase of the pump, but you would have to purchase the 21mm separately. The Elvie does not offer sizing inserts for those with smaller nipples than 21mm.
Using the correct sized flange while pumping is important so that you have a comfortable pumping experience. I like that Willow offers more options for sizing because there are a lot of women that may not fall into the standard 3 sizes that Elvie offers and could benefit from sizing inserts.
Both the Elvie and the Willow are small, round, and compact. They both have a sleek, modern look.
However, the Elvie bottle is clear and located on the bottom of the pump, so it allows you to see how much milk you’re catching. The Willow bottle or bag on the other hand is inserted inside the pump and is concealed while you’re pumping. So with the Willow, you’re unable to see how much milk you’ve collected without the app.
While using the Willow, that was a huge disadvantage for me. The app wasn’t always 100% accurate in telling me how much milk I collected but I had no way of finding out unless I turned off the pump and opened it to see the bag.
For this reason, I would say that the Elvie has the better appearance.
Although both the Willow and the Elvie claim to be quiet, I found the Willow to be pretty noisy. If you were in a relatively loud public place, no one would be able hear anyway since the sound would be muffled.
But if you’re pumping in a quiet place or if someone is sitting close to you, they will definitely hear the pump. I found the Willow to be almost as loud as a traditional breast pump.
In reviews for the Elvie, moms have noted how much quieter the Elvie is than the Willow and have described the Elvie as “nearly silent.”
Both the Willow and the Elvie have a rechargeable battery.
Willow claims to last about 5 pumping sessions and I found that to be true. You have to charge the pump for about 2 hours, but once it’s fully charged, you have a whole day of pumping without worrying about charging again.
The Elvie also takes about 2 hours for a full charge, and will give you about 2.5 hours of pumping. That means it’s probably best to charge the Elvie right after a pumping session to avoid it running out of battery on your next pumping session. Reviews by moms who have used Elvie complain that the battery life is too short and they wish it could be better.
The good news about the Elvie is that it charges with a micro-USB so it’s easy to charge it in your car, at work, etc., whereas the Willow’s charger requires an outlet (and only includes 1 charger for 2 pumps- what’s that about?!).
That being said, nothing beats longer battery life when you’re on the go.
The Willow container and milk bags each hold up to 4 ounces of breastmilk.
The Elvie bottles can each hold up to 5 ounces of milk.
But no worries, if you pump more milk than the bottle will hold, both of the pumps will automatically stop.
I personally prefer the pump that will allow me to get maximum yield per pumping session.
Willow has a 1 year warranty on the pump and a 90 day warranty on most accessories (flanges, flextubes, container, and container inserts).
The Elvie has a longer warranty than the Willow. It offers a 2 year warranty on the Hub and a 90 day warranty on the washable components.
Both the Willow and the Elvie are similar in design in that all of the components (the breast shield, the milk storage bags/container, and the pump) are contained in one unit. The entire pump fits inside your bra, although you’ll probably need a larger bra than you usually wear or a bra extender (the Elvie comes with one).
The main differences between the Elvie and the Willow is that the Elvie pump is universal and can be used on either breast. Whereas the Willow’s pump is designed so that the left and right pump are different. This is why you have to buy the Willow pumps in pairs.
Also, the way the Willow’s spill-proof milk bags are designed allows you to bend over and even lay down without worrying about leaking. One of the main complaints about the Elvie is that you can experience leaking with certain positions.
The other major difference in design is how you transfer the milk to a bottle or milk storage bag. With the Elvie, it’s easy. You just remove the bottom container, and pour the breast milk into another milk storage bottle or bag.
My biggest pet peeve with the Willow’s design is the “flip to finish,” the very specific process of tilting and flipping the pump to get the milk into your milk bag or container. It’s a huge learning curve to be able to do this effectively (you have to watch videos before you even attempt for the first time). It’s also very easy to spill milk during this process leading to an overall frustrating experience.
Another huge problem with the Willow is that it can be difficult to get a good “latch,” all of the pieces have to be aligned just right. Sometimes it would just stay in stimulation mode. Or I would get error messages and despite trying everything the app said to do, it still wouldn’t latch. In reviews I’ve read, other moms have had the same issues with the Willow so I think this is a huge design flaw.
What I really liked about the Willow is that there are few pieces to clean. If you use the reusable bags, you only need to clean the flange and the flextube for each pump. That’s only 4 pieces total! If you buy the reusable bottles, then that would be 2 more pieces you have to clean.
Willow provides you with specific cleaning brushes for the flextube, which was very convenient since the flextube is an odd shape and would be difficult to clean without the brush.
To clean the Willow pump pieces, you can use warm water and a mild dishwashing soap. The pieces are also DISHWASHER SAFE (huge win for moms)!
The Elvie has more pieces to clean, 5 pieces for each pump: the bottle, the spout, the valve, the breast shield, and the seal. So 10 pieces in total to clean, which could be a total hassle if you’re washing by hand. All washable pieces are top-rack dishwasher safe.
After having to clean so many little components for my Medela and Spectra, the last thing I wanted to do when I finally got a wearable pump is clean a lot of pump pieces.
For that reason, I think Willow is preferable than the Elvie in this category.
The Willow pumps have a total of seven levels of suction. In the latest Willow 3.0, you have three levels of suction for stimulation and expression up to 0.5 oz of breast milk. Once you’re reached 0.5 oz of breast milk, then you have seven levels of suction available. The Willow also includes a sensitivity setting for those who need additional comfort.
The Willow also has “Smart Suction Technology” which adjusts suction based on your preferences to increase output, without having to press a button.
The Elvie has a stimulation and expression mode, as well as seven intensity settings. You can personalize your settings and save your preferred modes and intensity.
From using the Willow myself, I found that the suction was really strong, even with the lowest setting. I eventually got used to it, but it was definitely painful in the beginning. I also got less output from the Willow than my Spectra or Medela.
Eventually, my milk production went down when I was using the Willow exclusively. I ended up doing a combination of renting a hospital-grade Medela and drinking lactation teas (I swear by lactation teas from Earth Mama!) to increase my supply.
After that, I decided to use the Willow as my secondary and travel pump.
It’s hard to say which one has the better suction, since they both offer seven levels of expression. And moms who have reviewed both the Elvie and the Willow have complained that they get better output with a traditional pump.
Both the Elvie and the Willow pumps have an app that you pair with your pump to track how much you’ve pumped.
The Elvie app has an Insights feature that will give you details about your pumping behavior.
The Willow app keeps track of your pumping session history and offers step-by-step onboarding and pumping tips.
I found the Willow app to be easy to use and intuitive. While sometimes the volume measurement was a bit off, for the most part it was accurate.
Women who have used the Elvie, on the other hand, have complained about how unreliable and inaccurate the app is when it comes to volume.
Elvie vs Willow, Which is Better?
Although both the Elvie and the Willow are revolutionary wearable breast pumps, I find the Elvie to be the clear winner for it’s:
- intuitive design and appearance;
- higher milk storage;
- longer warranty;
- quieter sound;
- smaller size;
- and inclusion of more accessories with initial purchase.
The Willow is still a great option though, especially for its flexibility in movement (you can lay down!), the additional flange sizes, and less overall components to wash.
Whichever one you choose, take some time to watch tutorials on Youtube to learn tips and tricks on using the pumps.
Using wearable breast pumps can be a learning curve, but the added freedom is so worth it!
Frequently Asked Questions
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Hi, I’m Yesenia. As a working mom of two kids. I’ve experienced all of the beautiful and crazy moments of early parenthood: breastfeeding, picky eaters, toilet training, balancing work with kids, and the list continues!
I created Hard Knock Mama to help working moms navigate through their child’s early years and find a successful balance in their home, work, and life.
This was a super thorough breakdown of the two wearable breast pumps! It was good that you mentioned wearable breast pumps tend to have less suction than other traditional pumps. Great post!
Thank you for the feedback Judy!