Everything you need to know for pumping at work with the Willow breast pump.
(This post is specific to the Willow 3.0 breast pump)
Using the Willow breast improved my overall mental health
Aside from needing to pump at work, another factor contributed to me considering the Willow breast pump. It’s something that I feel we don’t talk about enough. When you are exclusively pumping it can be really isolating, not to mention a time suck.
I was on a never-ending cycle of pumping milk, changing the baby’s diaper, feeding the baby, and then cleaning the pump parts and bottles. Over and over.
Not to mention what would happen if we went anywhere, or if anyone came over and I needed to pump. I would have to politely excuse myself to another room to sit by myself (upright with little movement). I’d wait the 20 minutes until my pump session was over. All the while my to-do list would be running through my mind. Which only made the whole having to sit still thing worse!
I thought, “I wish I had a pump that would work its magic, and let me get other things done around the house.” That’s when I began researching my options.
Returning to Work
So as I said, the other huge factor that led me to choosing the Willow breast pump was my job. I work in healthcare. It probably goes without saying that I don’t have very many minutes to spare while I am working. I’d been pumping with the Spectra S1 at home and that worked well. As my return-to-work date began creeping closer, I had to get real with myself. I didn’t see how the heck I would be able to keep up pumping at work with that pump. For one, I have a shared office space. While there are private rooms I could use to pump, I see my patients for 50-60 minute sessions. Not to mention, I have one after the other (every hour on the hour).
Well, honestly, I looked at The Willow and The Elvie. I am not throwing any shade at the Elvie! It is definitely a great option as well! Ultimately, when I compared the two, I chose the Willow breast pump. What led me to decide on the Willow was that when you use the pump with the bags, you are able to bend over without leaking. This was a big selling point for me because I work in pediatric physical therapy. Since I am constantly bending down and getting up and down from the floor, the Willow was a better option for me.
What Comes with the Pump?
Ok so let’s talk about what comes with the pump when you buy it and what you might want to consider getting additionally.
When you purchase the Willow breast pump, you will get:
- (2) Willow 3.0 Pumps
- (2) Flanges (see size chart for sizing)
- (2) Flex Tubes
- (24) 4 oz. Milk Bags
- (2) Cleaning Brushes
- (1) Charger
- 1 Year Warranty
What to know about the Flanges:
The flanges that come with your willow pump are the ones made to use with the bags. If you want to go with Willow’s reusable containers, you will have to purchase those separately.
I tried both flange types initially. I wanted to get the containers since I figured they would save me money. (The bags themselves can get pretty pricy over time). The issue? Well, there were a couple
1 .The reusable containers are not spill-proof. So if you’re not careful, you can end up with leaks. I decided that didn’t have the time or patience to deal with that at work.
2. There are more pump parts to clean when you use the containers. Three more per pump to be exact!
3. Taking extra safety precautions. I work in a clinic (that also provides pediatric medical care and dental care). In addition to that, I was pumping during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic. I felt more comfortable knowing that my breast milk was going straight into the bags and would not have a chance to interact with possible germs in the air. Since my son has cystic fibrosis, I wanted to be extremely cautious. People with cystic fibrosis have a more difficult time clearing bacterial infections due to the thick sticky mucus their bodies produce.
ALERT: Proper Flange Sizing is EVERYTHING
If you are going to go with the Willow pump you will want to make sure to measure for the correct flange size before ordering.
When pumping with the Willow, only the nipple should go into the flange. By that I mean you do not want the areola being pulled into the flanges. If you don’t have the right size you will most likely have issues with proper emptying of the breasts.
How do you measure?
You will need to measure the diameter of your nipple in millimeters. I used this super in-expensive and easy-to-use ruler from Amazon. They made the flanges in 21mm, 24 mm, and 27mm.
If you need a smaller size, you will need to get flange inserts. When I was pumping Willow did not make inserts for the Willow breast pump yet, they now offer a few sizes. At the time of writing this blog post, the Willow inserts retail for $19.99 USD. I used inserts from both Freemie and Maymom which I have linked in this Idea List on my Amazon Store here.
Not Confident in Sizing Yourself?
I recommend joining the Willow Pump Support group on Facebook, linked here! This group is run by Willow 3.0 and Willow Go pumping moms under the oversight of the specialists at Genuine Lactation. I definitely recommend joining this group whether or not you are having sizing issues. There is a ton of helpful information in this group. Not to mention, the group is organized clearly. They make the information you are looking for easy to find. The group is also moderated well so that only relevant discussions are allowed in the group.
If you have difficulty with sizing even after joining this group, Genuine Lactation offers various virtual consultations depending on your needs, linked here!
Note about Charging your Willow Breast Pumps:
The Willow breast pump only comes with one charger. If you want to charge both pumps at the same time, you will want to buy a second charger, which I have linked here!
Additional Helpful Items for Pumping at Work:
Full Coverage Bras
Willow now carries their own bras for pumping. Although, when I was pumping they did not carry bras. You will want to get a full coverage bra, one for breastfeeding is great for work. Having the snaps makes it easy to put the pumps in and take them out. I have linked a few different options in my Amazon Store here!
A Portable Fridge
One of my best friends got this first and told me about it. It’s pretty awesome. This small fridge has a handle that you can take to and from work with you. It comes with 2 adapters. It can plug into the wall and it comes with a car charger!
Milk Storage Cups
I tried a few different storage options. I ended up deciding on these reusable storage cups. These are a good option if you decide to pump with the milk containers over the bags.
I personally would transfer my milk from the bags when I got home to make it easier for my husband (He found the bags frustrating when trying to get a bottle ready). Next, I would mark the date and time on them with a dry erase marker. If you end up using the willow bags, you won’t necessarily need these. It really depends on how you prefer to store your milk in the fridge at home.
The Willow is not like your typical breast pump. I used a carrying case and I would bring however many bags I needed for the day. Since I work 10-hour days, I’d bring 3-4 bags a day with me.
Ok, so this is totally optional! I had 3 sets of pump parts for when I went back to work. This allowed me to have a clean set for each pump session. The main reason I did this was that because of Ethan’s CF, I sterilized my pump parts after each session. So this isn’t necessary for everyone but it does make it more convenient! I have linked spare flanges in my Amazon shop!
Quick Cleaning Wipes
As an alternative to bringing spare parts, you can use these wipes for easy cleaning between pump sessions. Be sure to thoroughly follow the instructions for use!
Not everyone gets leaky between feeding and pumping sessions. If you do, these are great to have on hand. They make both washable/reusable nursing pads as well as disposable ones. It is totally up to you and what you prefer.
A massager is optional. If you do end up engorged, you will be happy you got one! Unfortunately, I experienced engorgement on several occasions and this is one of the items I found helpful!
Heating/ Cooling Gel Pads
Something else I found really helpful for engorgement was using a heating pad, taking a warm shower is also helpful.
I hope you found this article helpful! Feel free to reach out to me if you have any questions about my experience using the Willow. As I stated before, the Willow Pump Support group on Facebook is a really great resource as well!
Looking for other product recommendations? Check out my list of Top 10 Must-Have Baby Registry Items HERE!
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