Hank finished up his last bag of frozen breastmilk this week. I didn’t cry, although I did feel pretty emotional about the journey we’ve been on the past year. Pumping is hard work… and I couldn’t help but think about all the times I wanted to give up on it. I’m glad we made it as far as we did.
All that being said, I’ve had some experience with 3 different breast pumps and wanted to share my thoughts for all of you mama’s who are curious. There are a couple of videos linked below, but if you’re not a video person I’ve also jotted down my written notes. I hope this helps you with your pump decision!
Willow Breast Pump
- It is a self-contained unit, meaning you don’t have any hoses or anything that need to be hooked up and coming out of your bra.
- It’s pretty quiet compared to my other pumps
- It is super easy to travel with
- There are only 2 parts to clean
- It can be fairly inconspicuous, but you have to be wearing a bulky sweatshirt to achieve that because it does make your boobs look significantly bigger when it’s sitting in your bra, unlike their advertisements online.
- There is an app that connects to them via Bluetooth to track how much you’re producing which is kinda cool
- You don’t need a special pumping bra for it because it fits right inside your bra
- It’s not the easiest pump to learn how to use, but they do provide training and consulting one-on-one for free if you buy one
- You have to use the specific willow bags that go with the pump, and they are pretty expensive. They’re about $.50/bag and the other bags I buy are maybe $.10/bag or less
- The willow bags only hold 4oz of milk, and my other bags hold 6oz
- Air can get into the milk bags which basically makes them fill up faster, so you have to disassemble the pump… squeeze out the air in the bag, assemble the pump and get to pumping again, so that can be a hassle
- The two electric pumps I have both have what’s called stimulation mode and let down mode… but the one thing about the Willow is it won’t let you manually go from one mode to the next. This is a problem for me because sometimes the stimulation isn’t enough for me to have a let down… so I need a little extra pull to get the milk flowing… I’ve sat on that pump in stimulation mode for 30 min+ waiting for a let down at times… but that’s usually at night when my breasts aren’t full. When I’m full it worked like a charm.
- You can’t buy Willow accessories in the store, it all has to be ordered online. So, if you need bags in a pinch, you’d have to wait for them to ship… or just be more prepared so you have plenty on hand. I think I bought like 125 bags or something right at the beginning and I still have maybe 30 ish bags left after 6 mo. So I’ll be ordering more here soon.
- This pump wasn’t in my network for insurance.. so they didn’t cover nearly as much. In the end, I think insurance only covered like $80-90 for this pump.
All that being said, there are some annoying things about the Willow pump, but it is so convenient I’m really glad I have it. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve pumped in a vehicle with that thing. I use it mainly when we’re out of the house and to pump right before bed just because it’s so convenient to have sitting on my bedside table. I have the Willow 1.0, they just came out with the 2.0, so I’m not sure if they made improvements to the negatives above… it’s possible. If you travel or are just out of the house a lot, I would recommend this pump.
Medela Pump In Style Advanced
After about a month of having Hank and breastfeeding and using the Willow as my primary pump, I decided it wasn’t going to be sustainable to use it when I went back to work full time. I thought it would cost too much in bags and I wanted something that was more practical for just sitting at home and pumping. Josie, my great friend, had 3 sisters-in-laws who all gave her their used pumps… So she mailed me one of them to use, which was so wonderful of her! I have since seen this same pump at target and I think it retails somewhere between $200-$300.
- It was free
- I’m pretty sure this one would’ve been in-network for insurance so it may have been fully covered
- You pump into bottles and then pour the milk into the cheap, 6oz bags to freeze
- It has manual stimulation and let down modes, you can also control how strong the pump is, so for me, I had letdowns very quickly
- It’s pretty simple to use
- There are 5 pump parts, so it takes much longer to clean it up good in my opinion
- For me, some of the parts have gotten worn out, so I’ve had to replace them, but the pump was used so that shouldn’t come as a surprise
- It is big and bulky. It comes in this big tote bag, and you have to be hooked up to the pump. This is a pump you’d have to use in private because there’s no hiding it
- It’s pretty loud, so I didn’t even use it when I was on conference calls because you can definitely hear it over a phone
- It’s just kinda clunky… but it’s super practical for just sitting at home and pumping. If you’re able to have privacy in your office at work, you could just leave it on your desk plugged in and hook up to it whenever you need to pump, as long as no one will come barging into your office
- You do need a special bra… or in my case, I just cut holes into a couple of my bras to use because I didn’t want to buy a special one for pumping. I did notice the fit of the bra fits does affect how well the pump works, so maybe a pumping bra would be worth it?
Silicone Breast Pump
This is definitely a little gadget you’ll want if you’re planning to breastfeed! After Hank was about 2 weeks old, I had someone suggest this little pump to me. It was a lifesaver to say the least. Here’s why: (I feel like this is an infomercial) These little pumps range anywhere from like $12-20 bucks on Amazon. One thing to know, this pump only works WHILE you’re breastfeeding your baby. So, while you’re baby is nursing (unless you have twins) only one boob is being occupied at a time, but they both still have a letdown! So, you suction this pump to the opposite breast you’re feeding on and it catches the milk. I was skeptical at first, but this little thing amazed me after a week or so of using it religiously.
- It’s cheap
- Easy to clean
- Easy to use, you just have to make sure you line your breast up good in it, but there are videos and pictures out there of how to use it
- When you first start breastfeeding your supply is regulating to the needs of your baby, so you can sometimes have over/under supply. This pump helped me increase my supply because it tricked my boobs into thinking they needed to produce more milk since I was emptying them both more often. I used this pump every time I nursed Hank at home for probably the first 2 months after I got it.
- It was AMAZING because I could get an extra 15-20oz/day NOT KIDDING using this thing! So, I used that to just store away and build a stash before I went back to work. I had almost 1,000 oz stored away at one point.
- Then around 3 months, I decided I didn’t want to use this all the time because one drawback is if we went out somewhere for the day and I couldn’t use this thing in public my boobs would fill up and be sore. I regret deciding to stop using it as often because my supply went down and regulated to Hank’s needs, and I wasn’t able to pump any extra. Still today, I’m not able to pump any extra besides what he needs each day.
- So, that’s basically all the positives. Get one of these. And if you get frustrated using it, call me and I’ll help you because it was the best investment I made after having Hank. Plus there’s a lot of resources that help on YouTube for using these.
- This is super minor… but don’t trust this thing suctioned to your boob. The first time I used it I was so excited because I got an extra 2 oz to store away. I got up off the couch and walked up to Josh to show him how cool it was, and the darn thing fell off my boob, milk spilled all over and it landed in Hank’s Rock n’ Play, so it was a huge mess. And I cried because crying over spilled breastmilk is a real thing.
- I’ve also spilled it off of tables before because it’s not stable, so to solve this, I set a large coffee cup on the table beside me so I could put the pump in it so it wouldn’t spill
This is the longest post so far on my blog. So, I’ll wrap it up now. I do want you to know if you’re starting this journey or thinking about breastfeeding and pumping, I’m definitely not an expert. But I am a friend and here for you if you have any questions or need advice. It’s a tough thing, but so darn rewarding. I’m here for you mama.