The Elvie Pump – a review
I LOVE it but...
I love this pump. The design is beautiful (and it arrives packaged like a product from apple!), you don’t need bags, and for a wearable pump, it really is pretty good. I rarely pump as much with it as I do my other pumps, but it’s not bad and with the freedom it offers, I usually don’t mind the slight difference. However, like anything there are definitely some cons and even a cautionary note about clogged ducts.
The set comes with 4 of everything except the flanges, though it comes with two different sizes, so I guess technically you still have 4. This is nice because you can use it multiple times before having to wash parts. I do wish there was an option to pick your size in advance and get two sets of the same size so you always have a backup, but Elvie does sell extra parts online so I suppose if it were that important to me I could buy a second set for $30.
It’s extremely easy to put together, much faster than any other pump, and because it all fits together so nicely, when traveling or throwing it in your purse, it doesn’t take up much room. It somehow seems easier/faster to clean these parts, versus standard pump parts. And this is huge. Pump part cleaning has become the bane of my existence.
I love that you don’t need a special hands-free bra to use this pump. It comes with theses bra extenders, so almost any normal nursing bra you’re wearing can convert to hold the pump. (note: my Natori nursing bras, which are my absolute fave, don’t actually work very well for this because the lace has too much stretch to it to really keep the pump nicely in place. Also, I already lost one of the bra extenders so now I have to pump holding one side in place. Or just suck it up and spend $15 to order another set.)
It’s pretty comfortable and with your freedom to walk around while wearing it, easy to forget you’re even pumping in the first place. You can use the app to control it and track what you’re pumping; however, I never found my app’s tracking ability to be very accurate, so I only used it as a timer in the very beginning. I’d have to peek in my bra to see how much milk was collected, which I totally didn’t mind since it was easy to do, but not something you’d want to do in front of anyone – one of the many reasons I don’t actually believe you can use these to “pump anywhere.”
A Word of Caution:
The downside to this design, is that there’s a large, flat surface area to the flange. When I first got this pump, I was so excited about it that I used it every single time I needed to pump. Then I started getting lots of clogged ducts, and then mastitis… and that’s when I realized I had a problem. Turns out the flat flange smashing up against my boob was preventing me from draining the milk. Once I stopped using it as my primary pump and started using it as my on-the-go pump, in the car, travel, etc., I never got a clogged duct again. I have no idea if others have had this problem, but just be mindful of it, especially if you get clogged ducts easily. (BTW, sunflower lecithin is a good way to combat clogged ducts. So now whenever I use this pump a few times in a row I also make sure to take SL.)
Silent and Invisible? Not Exactly.
Ok, so the Elvie is marketed as “a silent, wearable pump, so you can pump any time, anywhere.” You can “lead the meeting” they say.
YES and NO. It is VERY quiet. Kudos to them on that one. Probably the quietest pump I own, and I own five different pumps. It’s quiet enough that depending on the ambient/background noise level, sure, someone might not realize there’s pumping going on in there. However, if there’s not a lot of background noise, then when I’m pumping you can hear the milk drip-dropping down into the bottle. While I find that sound to incredibly gratifying, I also find it to be far more awkward than the whirr of the motor.
But it’s not necessarily the sound that prevents me from wearing this in public. It’s the size and the power light. I mean, I feel like a version of my 8 year old self playing dress up, with tennis balls under my shirt. Can you tell they aren’t really mine?!? Haha
Having an indicator light at the top seems like really poor planning – at least put it lower or facing inwards. If you are pumping in public and don’t want someone to see that light, you better layer up. I’ve worn this pump in front of family and close girlfriends, but I’m not comfortable sporting it to the grocery store or trying to lead a meeting with it–at least not yet.
I’ve heard of this pump being used by surgeons and litigators (donning oversized blazers and scarfs) – people who are stuck in one place without a break for extended periods of time. This makes sense because you can start/stop it with your phone and tend to the milk later, when there’s a break. I think it’s awesome that this exists to allow those who otherwise would have no possible way of pumping, a really great solution. This pump would also be ideal for people who drive bus and delivery routes; however, until the price comes down or insurance steps in on this one, it is probably cost-prohibitive for most.
It may seem like for someone who claims to love this pump, I just listed a lot of negatives. But at $500 a pop (plus extra accessories, should you need them), the Elvie is quite the commitment. So I think it’s important to really understand what you’d be getting. Especially with the work situation. A huge part of being able to pump effectively when at work is feeling relaxed. When you’re feeling vulnerable, you body tenses up, which hinders the release of oxytocin, and therefore prevents or stunts your letdown. This is why so many women notice a dip in their supply when they’re back at work. Because if they don’t feel totally at ease, they won’t be pumping efficiently. Thus, it’s important to know that while this pump is awesome and freeing and I’m so glad that it’s available to further empower moms, I think I would feel far to vulnerable and insecure to be able to pump with it in front of coworkers or strangers.
Thankfully for me, despite the clogged ducts and the fact that I now treat it more like my sexy sidepiece pump (I’m still mostly married to the medela symphony😉), I still love my Elvie and think it’s been completely worth the investment.
One thing’s for sure: it makes me so happy to see such innovation in the pump market – it’s long overdue! I can’t wait to see how things continue to improve.
Elvie in a nutshell:
Don’t need special handsfree bra
9/20/21 Update: Now that I've just had my second child...
I have some additional thoughts. I had my second baby three months ago, so I figured it was due time for an update:
When I finally got around to preparing for the arrival of my second, I hauled out all the bins of pumping and nursing supplies. (As the founder of a company that focuses on breastfeeding, I have more pumps and equipment on my hands than I care to admit). I unpacked my elvie and plugged it in to charge. When I went back to it later, it wouldn’t turn on. I figured it just needed a bit more time—so I left it to charge for the entire weekend. Come Monday, it still wouldn’t start up. I tried different cords, different outlets, nothing worked. So, I did what we always do, turned to the google. Apparently, this wasn’t an isolated incident. There are plenty of posts about the exact same issue and even video tutorials on YouTube explaining how to take apart your elvie and use a AA battery and some wires to jump start the elvie battery.
I contacted customer service. They promptly replied and said that if I didn’t keep my firmware up to date that can happen. So to update my firmware and then if I still had trouble and my pump was within the 2 year warranty period they would replace it. If not, there was nothing they could do.
Now, there are two issues with this:
1. In order to update your firmware, you have to be able to TURN ON the pump. So not only would this fix be impossible for me to even try, but when you think about it, it’s an absurd requirement—who the hell is going to take their pump out every so often in between kids in order to charge it up and update the firmware? No way. The minute I’m done breastfeed this equipment is packed up, out of sight, out of mind. And I’m in the business of pumps!
2. I had my kids 26 months apart, which is pretty common – in fact the average age spread among siblings in the US is 24-29 months – and that meant, unfortunately, that I was SOL w regards to the warranty.
I explained this to them and was met with a polite but firm, sorry there’s nothing we can do. Then I left a review outlining the above points, politely, and they quickly reached out to offer replacement hubs, which I very much appreciated.
I still think for such an expensive pump, there should be an expectation that it would last for multiple kids without regular maintenance.
On that note, my elvie bottles didn’t quite hold up either—you can see in the photos below how the little notches have broken off. I can still use them to pump into (for now) but if I try to store milk in them with their lid, they leak all over the place—I learned that lesson the hard way, unfortunately.
So, in summary: I still have a very strong love/hate relationship with this pump. On the one hand, it truly is incredible—in fact as I write this review I am sitting on an airplane pumping and no one around me has a clue (at least I don’t think they do, though they may have noticed I returned from the lavatory to my seat with knockers three sizes bigger than when I boarded). I love how freeing that is. But it’s an expensive luxury that may not hold up for multiple kids, and I still get clogged ducts whenever I use this pump multiple times in a row, even if I’m poppin’ sunflower lecithin like it’s my job.
Need help? Schedule an appointment with our Work & Mother Lactation Consultant!
If you need help with pumping and/or breastfeeding, head over to The HUB to book an in person or virtual appointment with our IBCLC Certified Lactation Consultant!