Editor Review: Everything You Need to Know About the New Willow Generation 3 Breast Pump
There are a zillion amazing things about becoming a mother, but pumping is not one of them. Pumping sucks. Pumping makes you feel like a dairy cow, tethered to a bowling ball, sequestered to a windowless room with a milk-stained couch when you should be in a meeting or — better yet — with your baby.
However, when I use my Willow wearable breast pump, I feel just a little better about the whole endeavor. I decided to get a Willow after pumping on a flight with a traditional pump. The pumping itself went fine (there were a few empty rows at the back of the plane so I didn't even have to pump in the bathroom), but the anxiety leading up to the trip was not. I knew I had a lot of travel in my future, and that let me justify getting a pricey second pump. With the Willow, I can pump in my seat on a crowded flight, on the subway when I'm running late to work, at Target, in the movies, while driving, at dinner with friends — basically anywhere I live my life.
But the Willow isn't perfect. And every time I use it, I think to myself, "I love this thing — I just wish it were better." Well, apparently the Willow team felt the same way because they just released Generation 3 ($500), an even better pump.
Willow Generation 3 vs. Generation 2: Mode Control
I noticed a major difference two minutes into my very first session with the Willow Generation 3: The pump went from stimulation to expression mode much faster — two minutes instead of my usual five-plus. "With Generation 2, it takes a certain volume of milk to get into expression mode," explains Ashley Morris, Agent Experience Lead for Willow. "With Generation 3, right away you have three suction levels available." So because the pump starts out stronger, it changes modes faster, and you can adjust the suction from there.
Willow Generation 3 vs. Generation 2: The Feel
When people ask me what the Willow feels like, I tell them to imagine a tiny printer suctioned to their breast with an ink cartridge going round and round and round. It's a terrible analogy (who the hell knows what a printer feels like, let alone a printer suctioned to their breast?), but it's the best I can come up with. Generation 3 is different. While it's still mechanical feeling, it's not like a printer. In fact, I thought long and hard to come up with a better analogy, and here it is: It feels like a baby. Maybe it's a robot baby, but it's still a baby — and that's a pretty dramatic change.
"You have more comfort with this generation because the pump has a slower, softer pumping rhythm," explains Morris. "The longer, slower pull more closely mimics the way the baby holds the nipple in the mouth," she says. "The baby does not let go of the nipple, but does long pulls of the nipple. With the different levels of expression, we're giving you more customizable options and more control so you can mimic your baby's session."
Willow Generation 3 vs. Generation 2: Output
The real reason anyone is reading this: What about output? Personally, I get about 20 percent more with my regular pump than my Willow. Generation 3 seems to completely negate that difference — I'm getting the same output I get with my regular pump. Similarly, Willow Generation 3 testers reported 20 percent more output than with Generation 2. "We think it's due to the change in the pattern of the pump — longer softer pull — and the control over the session," says Morris.
Willow Generation 3 vs. Generation 2: Noise Level
The new Willow sounds a little different, but the volume is about the same. If there's background noise, nobody is going to hear it. If you're on a call, the person on the other end may wonder what it is, but they'll never guess you're pumping.
Willow Generation 3 vs. Generation 2: Accessories and App
If you have a Generation 2 and you want to upgrade to a Generation 3, you can use the accessories you have — including the reusable containers. As an added bonus, when you order the Generation 3 you get to select your flange size (24 or 27mm — 21 will be available soon).
And Generation 3 has a completely new app. "New technology will pair your pumps and update your pumps without you having to do anything," says Morris. "We're trying to make it smarter and easier for moms." While I didn't notice any major new features in the app, it's great that it's keeping my equipment working better. Plus, I'd occasionally have a glitch where the old app would stop communicating with one of the pumps mid-session, and that seems to be resolved.
"Every year we try to make some improvements, and hopefully moms are really excited about this, too," says Morris.