Note: This review is not sponsored and I bought both pumps with my own money.
UPDATE, May 23, 2022: Since writing this review, I have had several issues with the Willow 3.0 pump. Customer service from Willow is very frustrating. They ask you to go through dozens of pointless troubleshooting steps before actually sending you a replacement piece, which of course, immediately fixes the problem. I have had two identical issues with the Milk Containers, which is very frustrating. At this point, I only recommend getting the Willow Go, which is more reliable, likely because the pump itself is simpler.
When I found out I was having a third child, I decided to splurge on a wearable breast pump, namely the Willow 3.0. It wasn’t but three weeks postpartum that Willow announced their new, more affordable pump called Willow Go.
Both of the Willow breast pumps are wearable, but they do have some important differences. I’ve put both to the test and have taken meticulous notes on my thoughts as my breastfeeding journey progresses.
Here are all the key things you need to know about Willow Go vs. Willow 3.0, including the subtle differences you won’t find on the brand’s website.
Willow Go vs. Willow 3.0 Price Comparison
First thing’s first: a Willow breast pump is expensive, regardless of which model you buy. These luxury pumps are hands-free, allowing you to pump without having to be “plugged” into the wall. You charge them and quite literally place them inside your nursing bra to start pumping. I often pump while I’m working at my desk, doing laundry, emptying the dishwasher, you name it!
A Willow pump, no matter which model, is worlds better than the Medela Pump In Style-type models I’ve used in the past. You know, the ones with all the tubes, a big clunky box, and a requirement that you be plugged into the wall. ↓
But that flexibility comes with a price tag.
Willow 3.0 costs $499.99, and it doesn’t even come with milk containers. (Can you tell I find that very annoying?!) If you don’t want to pump directly into milk bags every time, you’ll need to add the milk containers to your order, which cost an extra $49.99.
Willow Go costs $329.99, and you don’t need to buy extra milk containers. (Note: this pump does not allow you to pump directly into milk bags.)
Both pumps are FSA/HSA reimbursement eligible, and many insurance plans will help cover part of the pump’s cost. My Cigna insurance plan took off $150 when I bought the Willow 3.0.
Here’s the price comparison between the Willow 3.0 (with the much-needed Milk Containers) and Willow Go:
Willow 3.0 + Milk Containers
Without Insurance Coverage
With Insurance Coverage
As low as $170.99
As low as $390.98
I should also add if you are a teacher, healthcare provider, in the military, or a first responder, you can save an additional $50 off your pump.
If price is a deciding factor for you, it’s pretty clear that the Willow Go is the way to go (pun intended). However, if your budget has a little wiggle room, I’d like to share my experience and the differences that actually mattered to me when it came down to it.
Willow Go vs. Willow 3.0 – Pumping Into Bags vs. Containers
I don’t find it practical at all to pump directly into the milk bags with the Willow 3.0. This feature is the main differentiator between Willow 3.0 and Willow Go, by the way.
When you pump directly into the milk bags instead of the milk containers, you can pump in any position. You can do yoga while pumping, you can pump laying down, you can bend down and tie your shoes… you can’t do that when you pump into milk containers or with the Willow Go.
But for me, I prefer pumping into the milk containers and pouring my milk into a Lansinoh milk storage bag. I get anywhere from 1-3 ounces of milk per side, and it makes much more sense, typically, to consolidate this milk and put 2-6 ounces into a single bag.
It felt especially wasteful in the newborn days when I sometimes got less than an ounce per side. What’s the use in storing half an ounce in its own milk bag?
I’m also not a fan of the Willow milk bag shape. It’s not ideal for freezer storage as it’s circular and quite wide.
I prefer using Lansinoh milk bags, freezing the bag laying down, and then stacking them upright to save space in the freezer.
The Willow milk bags are too wide to fit into the freezer storage containers I have. I also didn’t have a wide enough flat space in my freezer to lay them down while freezing. Overall, the shape of them just isn’t ideal for freezer storage.
Finally, the Willow milk bags are expensive and sometimes out of stock. I can get 100 Lansinoh milk bags for less than $15, while I can get 48 Willow milk bags for $23.99. And you need two milk bags for each pumping session, mind you.
In sum, Willow milk bags will cost you $1 per pumping session, while Lansinoh milk bags will cost you 15 cents.
I just don’t find Willow milk bags practical or economical.
So in reality, the main difference between these two pump models didn’t even come into play for me.
If you take the quiz on Willow’s website to decide which pump is right for you, the quiz questions are in reference to the physical flexibility you get with the Willow 3.0 milk bags. When you pump with the milk bags, you could be upside down, and no milk will spill out. If that’s important to you, then definitely keep it in mind.
That wasn’t important to me, especially when you consider all the cons of the Willow milk bags, including the odd shape and the price.
But I did notice some more nuanced differences that, over time, had me reaching for one pump over the other.
Pros of Willow Go
Deciding which pump I like better has been a lot like finding a new mascara. You wear it the first day and have a neutral opinion. You may even love your new mascara by day’s end. But it really takes more than just a day to decide if you like it. After a week or two, you may find that you want to reach for a different mascara, even if you can’t quite put your finger on why.
That has been my experience with testing and comparing these two pumps. The first day I used Willow Go, I actually preferred it to the pricier Willow 3.0.
In a couple of key ways, the handling of it was simpler:
- You only have to press one button to start pumping (instead of two).
- You can pour your milk out of the pump without having to turn any levers or do the god-awful “flip to finish” maneuver, which if you don’t get right, will spill milk all over your lap. (Note: I did end up mastering this flip to finish maneuver, but I found it incredibly frustrating the first couple of times I pumped.)
I also noticed a couple of other pros:
- It didn’t seem as loud as the Willow 3.0, though neither pump is horribly noisy.
- My milk output was the same as the Willow 3.0, so both pumps seem to be equally powerful. Technically speaking, the 3.0 has up to -245mmHG maximum suction, and the Go offers maximum suction up to -280mmHG. Both of these suction strengths are compatible to hospital-grade breast pumps.
- The parts are all dishwasher-safe! I love dishwasher-safe parts…
- It holds more milk – up to 7 ounces per side (compared to 4 ounces per side with the Willow 3.0).
- It’s cord-free!
So, at first glance, I was really enjoying the Willow Go and found myself gravitating to it instead of the Willow 3.0.
But after a few days of using the less expensive pump model, I started to notice some differences that had me longing for the Willow 3.0 again.
Cons of Willow Go
Honestly, the difference that bothered me most was I couldn’t see how many ounces I’d pumped in the Willow Go app.
I’m going to pause here on this point because this ended up being more important to me than I thought it would be.
With the Willow 3.0, you can see how many ounces you’ve pumped on both sides, right in the app.
Because this pump is inside your bra, that’s very handy! If you’re in a space with other people, it’s kind of awkward to lift up your shirt or pull away your bra to discern how much you’ve pumped.
And even if you do look, it’s not exactly clear. You can get a general sense of how much milk is in the container – as in, it’s half full – but nothing precise.
Another reason I loved seeing how many ounces I’d pumped in the app is I knew when to stop pumping. I like storing 4 or 5 ounces of milk in a bag, so once I reached that exact amount, I’d stop.
If you’re the kind of person that likes having the TV volume on 20 instead of 19, you’ll get an immense sense of gratification when you see you’ve pumped 3.8 ounces and can keep going a little longer to reach 4.
I also didn’t have to weigh the milk afterward to label my milk storage bag – I knew exactly how much I’d pumped. I came to love how this simplified the process of storing my milk.
A few other cons of the Willow Go that started getting under my skin over time include:
- There are 5 pieces to wash and put back together (compared to 3 with Willow 3.0).
- You can’t adjust the expression levels in the app – you have to do it on the actual pump.
- Pouring the milk out of the Willow Go proved to be frustrating and unpredictable.
- You have to replace some of the parts somewhat often, and accessories are sold separately.
I’ll elaborate on this point, as well. With the Go model, you don’t have to remove any parts to pour out your milk into a storage bag. You simply remove the pump from your bra and tilt it so that the milk pours out of a small spout at the top of the pump.
However, this did not work smoothly for me. The milk would come out in a very slow stream sometimes and for no apparent reason. It would also have bursts of pouring out fast and then slow, causing the milk to have an entirely unpredictable path and thus making a mess.
It really bothered me that I could never just pour the milk into a milk bag without getting milk on the counter and the outside of the bag. I do not have this problem with the much more graceful Willow 3.0.
Final Thoughts: Willow Go or Willow 3.0?
So, I have both pumps and can take my pick as far as which one I want to use on a daily basis. And I definitely have gravitated toward the more expensive Willow 3.0. But not for the reasons others may think. I don’t care about the main feature difference, which is being able to pump directly into milk bags.
Rather, I love being able to see how many ounces I’ve pumped in the Willow app. I also like how smooth it is to pour my milk into bags, compared to the clunky experience with the Willow Go pump.
There are fewer parts to disassemble, clean, sanitize, and reassemble. And I can adjust the expression levels right in the app.
These are all small differences, but they add up to save me time and hassle. Pumping is something I do every single day, so if I can save a minute here or there, I notice it.
They’re rather small qualms I have, and while I do prefer the Willow 3.0, I’m also quite impressed with the Willow Go. At its lower price point, it delivers essentially the same experience as the Willow 3.0. I can still pump anywhere without having to be plugged into the wall or untangle a mess of tubing.
I hope my experience and attention to detail will help you decide which pump is right for you.
You really can’t go wrong with either pump. I can only say I wish I’d had this with my other two children! It has made the entire pumping experience much more convenient, and it’s helped me keep up my milk supply.