The Elvie (much like the Willow) has gotten a lot of press since it came out a couple of years ago. It’s a wireless, wearable pump that was developed with the mission to “bring women’s technology out of the dark ages.” With descriptions like “a huge gamechanger,” “liberating,” and “emancipating,” the promises are pretty lofty.
Wearable, Portable and Hands-Free
The Elvie pump fits directly on your breast(s), featuring a motor located within the breast cup itself. This is a big departure from a traditional breast pump where the motor is located in an external box (like the Spectra or the old-school/original Medela Pump in Style).
The Elvie is wireless, tubeless, incredibly quiet, and hands-free. Everything, from the machination to milk collection, is all contained within a single unit that fits inside your regular bra.
For this Elvie pump review, we looked at loads of reviews, talked to users and looked at specs. Let’s take a closer look.
To get set up, you’ll need to assemble the wearable pump (there are 5 pieces for each side, which easily fit together) and place it directly against your breast. You’ll likely need two hands to get started, to ensure the pump is properly positioned at your nipple; you can clip your nursing bra closed after you experience let-down.
Note that the Elvie pump needs some serious support — especially for women who produce enough milk to fill the storage bottles, you’ll want a good nursing bra to hold the pump (and milk) securely in place at your breast. Afterwards, in theory, you can sit back, relax, and… do whatever you want.
Many women who’ve used the Elvie really love it, but a sizable number also really don’t… While some hail the Elvie as “game-changing” and “emancipating” in comparison to other pumps — and totally think it’s worth the price tag — others sum up that they “love the pump in theory, but it doesn’t work great” or say that it’s “useless.” (Keep in mind that most insurance companies do not cover the newer hands-free pumps like the Elvie and the Willow.)
Yes, much like with the Willow, there are equal numbers of women who are obsessed with Elvie as there are who regret buying it. There’s a clear split between the fan club and frustrated users — and unfortunately there’s no foolproof way to predict which category you might fall into, because everyone’s body is different.
The most frequent points of praise for the Elvie are that it’s portable, convenient, and discreet.
The most frequent complaints about the Elvie are that it leaks (*this is a HUGE problem, in our opinion, and it tends to be exacerbated when you’re mobile… which is supposed to be the whole point, right?), it’s temperamental, it doesn’t have powerful suction (many women say they wind up needing to pump separately after removing the Elvie to empty their breasts fully), and that the app gives faulty info.
The Elvie (like the Willow) is a bold attempt to redefine some of the priorities behind pumping. Other wireless pumps have shifted the focus of pumping to mobility, but the very design of the Elvie is doubling down on that — and, to a certain extent, it’s doubling down on discretion, too.
Though it does succeed to some extent, again — there are tradeoffs:
Yes, you can use this in public, at work or lunch, or anywhere. The ability to pump breast milk in front of people without their knowing is revolutionary, friends, seriously. But because the Elvie was also created to store 5 oz. containers of milk “on site,” your boobs may look comically big, at least to you. One reviewer said: “I do look a little bit… crazy.” Another said she felt like a femmebot from Austin Powers.
The Elvie also doesn’t completely eliminate the need for some private space on the front and back ends of pumping. To get things set up and begin pumping, you’ll need to access your breast and pay attention (it does take some finagling). Same thing goes for the finishing up of a session.
Pro-tip: If, like many women, you’re uncomfortable about your boobs appearing bigger (much bigger), try using a nice oversized scarf to help conceal your bust.
Tracking and visibility
The collecting bags are in the breast cup itself, so there’s very little visibility or physical access. Because of that, many women say it’s tough to gauge how much milk they are actually collecting, which can be somewhat confusing, if not downright nerve-wracking. If you are a first-time pumper, this may simply be your norm, but if you’ve pumped before, know that not having that real-time visibility can be a big adjustment.
The biggest reason women who love the Elvie love it is because it enables them to retain some measure of independence while pumping. You can walk around, eat your lunch, work at your desk, drive, or take your dog for a (slow) walk — all of which is great. But the device still requires more-or-less “stationary activity.” It falters with bending or any real activity. **To repeat: MANY users warn that the Elvie leaks if you do anything that entails bending over.
Lastly, unlike the wireless BabyBuddha, the Elvie is not known for its power and has a weaker suction than that of the Spectra S1 pumps (and others). In fact, many women say it’s less efficient than other pumps because of its gentle suction. For this reason, it’s not the best choice for increasing milk supply.
Insurance Coverage, the Smart Phone App, and the Elvie vs Willow Debate:
- Some insurances may cover it, which distinguishes it from its other newer “classmates.”
- Many users complain about the Elvie app, saying that its volume tracking is inaccurate and unreliable… which is a problem since you can’t actually see how much milk is in the collecting (in a few instances, it even resulted in spillage when the app didn’t pick up on the actual milk volume in a collection bottle).
- Regarding the Willow v. Elvie showdown: there isn’t really a clear-cut winner; we’ve heard from women who line up to defend both brands. But because of its app’s enhanced milk-tracking accuracy, its reputation for (slightly) stronger suction, its having fewer parts to deal with, and the fact that it now offers reusable collection containers, (if we had to call it) we’d probably say the Willow is the better option, but it’s close — and we don’t universally think these wearable breast pumps are better for everyone.
Bottom line: if discretion is what you’re after, give the Elvie a look. It (might) allow you the freedom to pump anywhere (though not while bending over). However, the downside is that it’s not particularly powerful or fast and the tech can be buggy. If speed and power are of utmost importance, you may want to look elsewhere for enhanced milk production.