Last year when I was pregnant and in the market for a breast pump, I did a ton of research because I knew absolutely NOTHING about breast pumps, pumping milk, storing milk, or anything to do with breastfeeding in general. I read several blogs, went to the Medela website and took their quiz to “find out which pump was right for me,” and went on YouTube to find reviews. In case you are wondering…going on YouTube can be kind of…well…startling, because you can be sure that in addition to people giving their opinions about different pumps there are a lot of practical “how-to” videos, and I wasn’t really prepared to see that much boob. Let’s face it. Pumping is necessary, but not exactly attractive. I mean, it’s not supposed to be. But still.
Anyway, now that I have been using a pump for almost 8 months, I figured I would add my two cents to the plethora of opinions floating around out there. Background on my pumping experience: my son is exclusively breastfed, and at the beginning I primarily used my pump to create a backup store of freezer milk in case we wanted to leave Evan with a sitter for a few hours. About four and a half months postpartum I ended up having to go back to work full time, so I started pumping a lot more, up to 4 times per day. That being said, I have experience with both situations–pumping occasionally and pumping at work–and have tried two different kinds of pumps, so hopefully some of this information will be helpful for someone!
The Medela Freestyle
Originally, this was the pump I chose. I was lucky enough that my insurance covered the cost of my pump completely, which is part of the reason I went with this one. This pump carries a hefty price tag ($330-$400 depending on where you buy it from) and I decided that I liked enough things about the pump and knew I wouldn’t be able to shell out the money without insurance to purchase it on my own.
This pump is tiny! It is also relatively quiet, which I appreciate, and it gets the job done. Super convenient feature: it is hands free and battery powered so you don’t have to be tethered to a wall in order to pump! I can’t tell you how many times that came in handy for me, especially when I was at work/travelling and there wasn’t always an outlet available. Also, the charge lasts for quite a few days which means you don’t have to be worried about making sure it is plugged in every night. The pump parts themselves are easy to assemble and just as easy to clean.
In my experience using this pump, I found that I had to have the suction almost all the way up. The suction power goes from 1 to 9, and I would usually have to pump on level 8. Sometimes this would make me sore, but if I pumped on a lower setting, the suction didn’t seem to be enough to express milk effectively. Also, the lower the battery charge, the weaker the suction became (which I suppose is to be expected, but was annoying none-the-less). I don’t really have any more negative comments on the pump, but the one con is kind of a big one.
The Medela Pump in Style Advanced
When I unexpectedly went back to work full-time, my milk supply began to decrease. I tried to pump as much as possible, but sometimes with only one or two person coverage, I wasn’t able to pump as consistently as I should have. Couple that with Evan starting solids, and I started to feel like my supply was really in trouble. I wasn’t able to express as much milk, and it became a serious source of stress in my life. While I was doing my original research on pumps, I had heard that the Medela Pump in Style Advanced (PISA) was very efficient, and so I decided it was worth a shot to try a different pump and see if that helped me maximize my pumping sessions.
This pump really works! I find that I have to pump a shorter amount of time to get the same results as I did with the Freestyle. This is awesome. Not only do I have to spend less time pumping, but my output has actually increased since I started using the PISA. I also don’t have to have the suction level up very high in order to get results, but even when I do have it quite strong, it doesn’t make me sore at all. For some reason I find this pump to be very comfortable, and I don’t seem to look at pumping like so much of a chore. The pump doesn’t seem to make that much noise either. Always nice!
You have to be sitting next to an outlet to use this pump. It does come with a battery pack and a car charger, neither of which I have tried, so I really can’t speak to the effectiveness of those other power options. It is a bit of an inconvenience to be stuck to a wall while using the PISA, but because the suction power is so much stronger than the Freestyle I don’t mind having to find an outlet to use it. It does take up a lot of real estate on a table or floor where it is sitting…at home I don’t care, but at work it is kind of cumbersome to have to make sure I have the space to have everything set up. The membranes for this pump that create the suction are very small, and seem like they might be somewhat easy to lose or misplace while cleaning, but if that happens a pack of replacement membranes isn’t very expensive to buy. Also, the tubing tends to get condensation collecting inside if I pump for longer than 20 minutes, but it is easily taken care of by leaving the pump running with only the tubing attached (it dries out really easily).
Overall, though I like both of these pumps I prefer the Pump in Style Advanced. Since I purchased it I haven’t used my Freestyle again. I plan on keeping both pumps because the Freestyle is still an excellent pump and I’ll use it when and if I am travelling while still breastfeeding. For now though, the PISA is perfect for my pumping needs and helps me to express more milk. It earns bonus points for doing it in less time, too! If you have to choose just one pump, I’d recommend the PISA.
Hopefully that was useful information for some of you! If you’d like to see more product reviews or have questions feel free to let me know in the comments!