Is a wearable pump really worth the financial investment? Sure, the freedom sounds nice, but with mixed reviews and the inability to return the pump if it doesn’t work for you, is it really worth the risk of buying one?
In short, though imperfect, wearable pumps have been life-changing for me.
The first pump I bought was the Elvie. Let’s dive into the good, the bad, and the ugly of using it:
As a busy, traveling mom who exclusively pumps, I started to resent how pumping with my hospital grade and Spectra felt like time out every time, and wondered how I could keep up once we started traveling as a family.
I knew early on that I had to make a change in order to make pumping it sustainable, so enter the Elvie!
There are plenty of days where it’s just me and my little one and during the 15 to 20 minutes that I might be pumping, chances are good he will need something, or perhaps I will need something. Being able to put food together and eat, drink, pee, do laundry, wash dishes, whatever, is too important, and being hooked up to a wall is prohibitive of doing any of these things.
Then there are the times we’ve been flying all day, or are on a road trip.
My life changed when I entered the world of wearable pumps. I was no longer in time out. I got hours of each day back. To me that’s invaluable.
One of my hesitations with getting a wearable pump was the warning that I might not get as much output as with other pumps. That has not been my experience at all. I actually get more output with the Elvie than I do with my Spectra.
It’s all about making sure you have the correct flange (the 24 and 28 that it comes with are too big for me, so I ordered a 21), and are putting it on correctly, which they have tutorials for. I didn’t have much issue figuring it out.
Every pump requires cleaning and every pump has multiple parts. I find the Elvie to be just as easy to clean as any of my other pumps. It has around the same amount of parts and they can be thrown in the dishwasher. In addition, the refillable bottles come with caps so you can easily store them in the fridge after you pump.
I also appreciate that the Elvie comes with four milk storage containers, cutting down on the washing frequency required.
Picture this, you’re traveling on a train, plane, or in a car for work. Your engorged AF and you’re not with your little one, so breast-feeding is out (or maybe you’re in exclusively pumping mom and it’s time to get a bottle filled.) With a plug-in pump, where are you going handle this, especially on a long flight? Even with a hand pump, are you going to sit in the bathroom for 30 minutes? With the Elvie I can just go into the bathroom, insert it, come back to my seat, and go back in when it’s time to remove it. Or if I’m feeling particularly bold I can just do it all in my seat.
The app that goes along with the Elvie is excellent. I love that I can open it up and see exactly what my output was for my last few pumps, track it back to every pump I’ve ever done, and that I can see when I last pumped. I have hard-core mom brain. I can’t be expected to remember on my own, so this function is really nice. Unfortunately the Willow Go app is very bare-bones and doesn’t include any of this, Which makes one wonder what the point is.
I will say that the app usually over-estimates my output, as it attempts to measure how much you’re pumping in real time. I almost always have to adjust it for less than it is estimating. I had a supply dip issue and this messed with me mentally a bit at the time, but the estimate is important so that you don’t overfill the container and leak.
Although I love it, It’s not perfect.
No pump has managed to tick all my boxes, and there are some common issues that people run into with the Elvie.
This was one of my biggest hesitations in purchasing this pump, because I read reviews where people mentioned leakage and as any mom knows, you definitely cry over spilled milk when it’s your own. Unlike the Willow 3.0, you can’t lay down or move in any position you want with this pump. This only works with the Willow because it fills disposable bags (The Willow Go has a container, and you can buy a separate container for the willow 3.0, however it also means you don’t have as much mobility), but I really didn’t want that much of an ecological footprint, so I risked it with the Elvie.
I’ve leaked a few times and learned you really can’t lean over. I’ve also leaked when I didn’t put the pump together perfectly. Although it’s user error, you can’t see that you’re leaking until you feel it since the pump is tucked into your bra.
The pump will probably tap out around 110 to 120 ml at which point you’ll have to empty it in order to keep going. This isn’t a huge deal to me, but if you’re pumping for twins or are an over-producer you may find yourself pausing to empty frequently.
Although these are a favorite pump for nurses and other professionals who are working on their feet, you have to be careful with your outfit choices.
It will make you look like you have crazy huge boobs. This comes as a surprise to some people, although it makes sense to me that a pump is going to have to add some extra girth in order to have the motor, fit your boob, and of course fit the milk.
I find that layers, scarves, or anything that’s not formfitting gives a little bit more discretion if I’m out pumping in the wild.
And although the pump is delightfully quiet, It’s not completely silent.
Some other common complaints I’ve seen are battery life, which I haven’t had an issue with. I can usually go 6 or so pumps without having to recharge. I’ve also seen complaints that the pumps have other mechanical issues all of which I’d rectify directly with the company as they have a 2-year warranty.
Obviously the price point at $550 is high for the Elvie pump (check if they have a sale, as they sometimes do!). You probably already know about that and are weighing if it’s worth it.
Despite the minor issues, it is still my favorite pump. The output and the ability to have mobility still it more than worth it for me. I probably would have given up by now if I didn’t have access to a wearable pump, so it’s saved breastfeeding for me.
It’s not perfect, but it’s as close as I have in my repertoire.
When it comes to sizing, you may have to order additional flanges, as I had to, as the standard 24 mm and 28 mm are often too big for many women. They do, however, have a 21 mm flange, and if you need any smaller you can get additional inserts that will fit into the 24mm flange.
The nice thing about a wearable pump is you won’t need a specific pumping bra. I’m able to just use this in my nursing bra, which continues to make my life easier. Constantly having to disrobe and change into my pumping bra to use any of my other pumps just adds time and makes them more cumbersome.
The suction on the Elvie goes from level one to seven. I get great output just pumping on a level one or two. I can’t say the same for my other pumps, where I get significantly less unless I turn it up. I’m pretty sensitive, so that may be why I prefer the Elvie so much. I still get great output even on the lowest level. If you’re not feeling any suction, it’s because some part of the pump is not dry enough or the duckbill valve is tucked.
Though it’s imperfect, the Elvie is my favorite pump for the freedom it has given me. In many ways it has saved my pumping journey. Buy yours here.
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