Having sized moms who use the Willow pump for the past few years I have seen a few common, unpleasant issues. In this blog we will discuss nipple discoloration while using Willow.
Willow offers flange sizes 21mm, 24mm and 27mm. As of a few months ago, they came out with inserts sizes 15mm-19mm (yay!) but if you are needing better inserts for flat or elastic nipples then click here!!!. They also have an app that after many years of working on sizing incorrectly, they finally, kind of, got close to better helping their customers size down. Unfortunately, their sizing app is still not perfect which leaves their customers with the exact same issues they have been having since their products first launched in 2018(?).
Willow has a different suction pattern from other pumps. Other pumps the suction pattern is intermittent so it doesn’t do so much harm if using larger flanges. The Willow however, has a constant suction which is where the issues start. You can even find their statement here, that describes their pump as moving away from traditional pumps and… “creates continuous suction similar to your baby’s latch”. Unfortunately that can be harmful for mothers and what I see is, is regardless of the size you are using, it can turn your nipples white, purple and bruised looking. This is an environment that a lot of moms would call to produce vasospasm symptoms. This is a plain way of saying the pumps suction is causing lack of blood flow to the nipple. Think of it like when you sleep on your arm too long overnight and you can barely move it in the morning and when you do, there is intense pain.
The solution starts out simple
Get properly sized. Yes you can use their app to get a basic sizing and if you size down and you don’t have any issues, then there is no reason to continue to change sizes. But if you still have issues, then it’s best to get properly sized. As Willow suction acts like a vise grip, the best approach I have found is to size down smaller, as small as possible in fact. When you size down as small as possible to the size of your nipple, you won’t allow for the nipple to swell and this helps reduce how much areola gets sucked in as well.
How to tell if you have vasospasm symptoms or if it’s just discoloration from using Willow?
If you actually do have vasospasm symptoms, then your nipples will get discolored with any flange size, any suction strength and any pump you use which will typically be associated with a lot of pain and/or discomfort. If you can properly size down and the discoloration reduces and you don’t have discomfort; then the discoloration was likely from using a size too big. If you continue to have nipple discoloration in the purple, blue tones then you can discuss your options with your physician. If you only have the Willow and are not able to test another pump, ask a friend to lend hers or get a hand pump. Not only to test if you still have nipple discoloration, but because it is always best to have a secondary back up pump should something happen to Willow.
Is sizing for Willow the same as other pumps?
Please note that the way I size moms for the Willow is different than any other pump on the market. I suggest getting sized with me for the Willow and any other pump you have. No need to buy a whole lot of flanges and inserts to test them out. Let me measure you and pick the sizes for you and make your pumping journey so much easier.
What are some other issues Willow causes?
When using larger flanges or inserts with Willow, your nipples end up looking like tater tots after pumping; this is due to excessive swelling. Often, this swelling breaks down the skin causing fissures, that lead to cracks and possibly blisters and if you don’t figure out your fitted size quickly, those issues can lead to thrush down the road.