Reviewed by Maura Keating
Every mother who plans to breastfeed worries about breastfeeding. For me, I worried about not having enough breast milk. I had many friends who had problems with production and were advised by their doctors to supplement with formula. I needn’t have worried. Instead of not enough, I was blessed with too much. Looking for a way to handle my abundant production, The Warm Line at Women and Infant’s Hospital was a lifesaver. They referred us to an amazing lactation consultant and we came home the proud new owners of a Medela Breast Pump. It’s hard to love a breast pump, but I do love my Medela Pump. My love faded a little when I went back to work. I had to lug the big, generic Medela backpack with me to work and sequester myself in a dark break room (praying that no one would open the door) and stand for twenty minutes while I pumped, listening to the loud, rhythmic motor while holding the breast shields in place. Not my idea of a restful break, even if it was productive.
Medela must have read my mind. The new Medela Freestyle Pump is everything that I could have wanted in a breast pump. It boasts Medela’s superior electric pumping ability but in a much smaller package. The pump is small and light enough to hold in your hand! (Ah, technology!) The Freestyle uses rechargeable batteries so you are no longer tethered to a power cord. The battery lasts for up to three hours of pumping time per charge (long enough for an average day of pumping), although the battery recharges quickly, just in case.
The LCD screen and digital display make the pump easy to use. A backlight even makes it possible to pump without turning on another light. A memory button allows you to save your settings to use again next time. A small tote bag is included and can easily hold the pump and the hands-free kit (see below), though I’m just as likely to use my own bag.
The pumping power of the Freestyle is comparable to the Medela Pump In Style Advanced that I used previously. The Freestyle is designed for daily use and it is made for Moms who are on the move (i.e., every Mom I know). Medela uses a “2 Phase Expression” hospital technology to simulate what would happen if you were nursing your baby. The two phases are timed, but you can switch between them with a touch of a button if you let down early. A plus and minus button allow you to increase or decrease the vacuum power–press the button briefly to change the setting by one step or hold the button down to change the setting quickly. A timer keeps track of how long you’ve pumped. A memory button allows you to record a pumping session so that you can repeat it again with the touch of a button. The pump is still noisy, but maybe a little quieter than the In Style. I wouldn’t recommend talking on the phone unless you’re prepared to explain the background noise.
The included hands-free kit is a promising idea but was a little tricky (and sometimes impossible) to implement. In fact, I’m still not sure if I’m doing it right. The sheer number of items included in the hands-free kit can be a little intimidating. A belt wraps around your waist with Velcro to hold the pump, and there is a belt extension in case you need it. Next, you can attach plastic straps to the hooks of your bra straps to hold the breast shields in place. Medela includes two styles of straps to fit a variety of women. The straps and included bra adapters work better with some bras than others. Although the hands-free kit does free up your hands while pumping, your mobility is still limited. I found it just as easy to tuck the breast shields into my bra to hold the shields in place. The soft breast shields are much nicer and more comfortable than the stiff breast shields used with other pumps. The assembly is different than the In Style and I liked it better–there were fewer small pieces and I found them easier to clean.
The included bottles are BPA-free. A soft, insulated cooler holds four bottles. A contoured ice pack keeps breast milk cold for up to twelve hours and keeps the bottles from sliding around in the cooler.
For Moms who pump and especially for Moms who pump frequently or who plan to pump long-term, the Medela Freestyle is worth every cent. Although the hands-free kit is not perfectly intuitive, the size of the pump and the enhanced accessories deliver on Medela’s promise of freedom with an added touch of style. If you’re wondering whether you should get it… get it.
Medela Freestyle retails for $379.99
Visit www.medelafreestyle.com to locate a store near you.