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Breast Pump Review: Medela's Hands-Free Freestyle

If you have a chance to get your hands on Medela's new breast pump, the Freestyle, you'll be amazed. No more lugging a backpack-sized breast pump everywhere. Plus, besides being a pump that fits in the palm of your hand and weighs less than 1 pound, the $380 unit promises to be hands-free. It works off of a lithium ion rechargeable battery, so pumping moms can make milk without always connecting to the wall.

Sound too good to be true? Well, that's just what I wondered after seeing the unit. All I needed was some testers willing to bare (and bear) their milking in public. For that I turned to nursing moms around The Washington Post building. Here's what they had to say ... and for you squeamish men who cringe at TMI, it's time to click away:

Amy Joyce: The Pump of Perfection or a Disaster?

*Note: Amy's editor high-tailed it away as fast as she could when I approached with the Medela box. So, clearly, TMI isn't just for men.

When I was asked to test drive the Freestyle, I thought sure, but what do I care? I'm down to pumping just once a day. I knew if it was perfect, I'd curse the manufacturers for not coming up with it sooner. A disaster? I'd curse them for wasting my time.

My conclusion: It was a little bit of both.

Read More

Sara Kehaulani Goo: A Hassle to Set Up, But...

While I am a fan of breast-feeding and want my son to have all the benefits of breast milk, the task of pumping twice a day while at work has quickly become a chore. As a multitasker, I can attest it is difficult to text message on your BlackBerry and hold the pump correctly on your breasts at the same time. So the idea of a hands-free pump was really appealing: I could take back those 25 minutes a day that I felt so squeezed to give up at work by multitasking as I pump!

But as soon as I opened the box, I could see why Medela provided a warning. There are no fewer than 10 separate pieces to assemble this contraption and it took me a half-hour to read through the manual and figure out how to put it together.

Read More

Lori Montgomery: A Quantum-Leap Improvement

There were problems right off the bat, starting with the breast cones. They were too small and chafed. I was able to swap out my larger cones, but that made the whole apparatus protrude a good six to eight inches from my chest. As I puttered around the kitchen, cones sucking, pump droning, my husband started referring to me as "the borg."

But later ...

This time, I just sat down at the darn table, put the pump on it and tucked the breast cones into my (non-nursing) bra, as I've been doing for months. (You can actually drive this way.) And, for some reason -- whether because the battery was finally fully charged or because the shield apparatus was finally correctly snapped together -- the pump worked great.

Read More

By Stacey Garfinkle |  May 13, 2008; 6:30 AM ET
Previous: Amy Joyce: The Pump of Perfection or a Disaster? | Next: The Ultimate Birth Story

Comments


How much time does cleaning take? I decided on an Ameda (Truly Yours) pump because no milk flows into the tubing. It is a cinch to clean...soap and water on the cones and flanges...and your done. I'm on 10 months now and the idea of getting time back is so exciting. I'm not buying a new pump now but who knows in the future.:)

Posted by: arlington | May 12, 2008 9:08 PM | Report abuse

So, do the old cones, etc fit on it? You could get different size cones for the pump 'n style depending on your anatomy. Had to order them separate, but the really helped. Also, with the pump 'n style, I could attach almost any standard bottle, I didn't *have* to use medela's. Is that still true? Or am I going to have to decant milk into the little ones bottles?

I agree about the stupid white flap on the pump 'n style.. Luckily, Target sells them!

Posted by: Nurser | May 13, 2008 7:24 AM | Report abuse

hmmm...interesting. i pumped for almost a year for my son using the pump in style. just a tip, that at the Greater Washington Breastfeeding Center, they sell a "hands free" tube top that you put on over your bra to hold the pump in place. a little ridiculous-looking, but it allowed me to work at my desk while a pumped, which was a life-saver!

Posted by: dcmom | May 13, 2008 7:56 AM | Report abuse

Does anyone know if there are any organization that would accept a used breast pump? I thought I heard or read somewhere that you'd need to get a new, sanitary "kit" but the device itself could be reused. If I'm wrong, please let me know. I'd love to think someone could use this again.

Posted by: WorkingMomX | May 13, 2008 8:26 AM | Report abuse

WorkingmomX: Yes, they do sell something. But realistically - either the stuff you have gets clean after washing it or it doesn't - so I do know that people re-use it anyway.

You can sell it on ebay, or craig's list, too.

Posted by: atlmom | May 13, 2008 9:06 AM | Report abuse

I used the Pump in Style from Medela and figured out that if you place a piece of wide masking tape (2 inches wide) across the top of the cones and on your breast (masking tape is sticky enough to hold but not painful to take off, your standard masking tape is fine), then you have hands-free pumping! Much cheaper and works fine.

Posted by: Rebecca | May 13, 2008 9:10 AM | Report abuse

The idea of the hands free pump is a great one but practical, not really. And, $380 for a breastpump? I use the Lansinoh Double Electric which is made for them by Ameda and it is great. Only costs $150 but just as powerful and good as the Medela Pump in Style anyday (used that with my first child, Lansinoh's with second). From the comments i have read on the Freestyle, there are too many glitches and too much time spent fumbling to make it work right and not leak--time I don't have when I need to pump. I use a hands free bra when I want or I use my forearm and can use it one-handed.

Posted by: nicole | May 13, 2008 9:33 AM | Report abuse

Another hands-free tip that I used for months at work: rubber bands. Loop a chain of two rubber bands around your bra strap, slide the band loop over the cone, and you are good to go. Not terribly secure, but it works well enough to type and pump at once.

Posted by: Mommabean | May 13, 2008 10:00 AM | Report abuse

I wore nursing bras. My mammaries were so much larger than normal, it just seemed a waste to buy normal bras just to never wear them again once I stopped nursing (just like the nursing bra).

I purchased this contraption called "Made by Mom" pumping band. It was a sort of sling that held the cones in place (my husband called them "The Horns". Hands free! And I had an office, which made it more convenient. I just wish pumping was faster. It only took me like 10-15 minutes, but the clean up added additional time. Hey MEDELA! Are you listening? Help us increase our productivity!

Posted by: tlawrenceva | May 13, 2008 10:11 AM | Report abuse

Mommabean, I used a similar method. When I'd gotten the hands-free kit to use with my Pump in Style (9 years ago--eek!), I found that it was designed to use with Medela's own nursing bras. Ha. I wasn't going to pay the big bucks for those when I could get nursing bras for a quarter of the price at Target. Instead of putting the rubber bands through built-in bra loops, I looped them over safety pins; then I could move them from bra to bra each day and still pump while working at my desk.

With my second kid, the little spiky things for the hands-free kit had seen better days, and I didn't always use them. Rubber bands on safety pins were still the way to secure the cones, though--and I found that I could get good adherence using just one (or two) per side instead of the three that had been recommended.

As for lugging the briefcase back and forth, I ended up doing so just over weekends and toting the milk in a small cooler bag; I had the hand pump at home if I needed to pump in the evening.

If I had to start from scratch today, I'd be tempted by this new tiny thing, but I dunno. It'll be interesting to see how the reviews come in!

Posted by: ArlVa | May 13, 2008 10:14 AM | Report abuse

I'm fortunate to have a private office with a door that locks, but I felt more productive just pumping one side at a time while I typed with the other hand. That way, I could keep typing the whole time while I emptied each breast individually. I suspect that it probably didn't save me much time, but it felt like I was doing something. Sad we can't just take 20 minutes to do our mom stuff without feeling like we need to do other work. I remember the first time I pumped while I was driving. I just had a vision of that state trooper sauntering up to the side of the car while I was desperately trying to free myself of tubing...

Posted by: Made me feel productive... | May 13, 2008 12:08 PM | Report abuse

Arlington and Nurser:
The hookups for the Freestyle are the same as for other Medela pumps, so you can use the same array of cones and bottles. Cleanup is slightly more laborious because you have to disassemble a 3-piece apparatus that snaps tightly together and includes a much larger rubber thing with grooves (as opposed to the tiny flat white thing). But it's not a huge difference.

Posted by: Lori Montgomery | May 13, 2008 12:09 PM | Report abuse

Forget "pumping" and Medela -- breastfeeding moms who want to store milk should get the Whittlestone Expresser. It is a totally different experience (ie, you don't feel like a cow being milked) and it's what moms in Europe/Australia/New Zealand use. There are only a few online sellers in the United States.

Posted by: ZuBee | May 13, 2008 12:51 PM | Report abuse

I BF'd two kids for a little over a year each, and worked more than fulltime after returning after maternity leave, including frequent trips (thankfully before the ridiculous TSA rules about liquids kicked in). I had the Medela Pump in Style (the briefcase version), and kept it in my office (I brought the horns and bottles home each night to wash up). At home and for business trips, I used the Avent hand pump, which took a little longer, but extracted just as much milk, maybe even more (probably because it's NOT hands free, and I had to focus on it). More importantly, it was very portable and light.

Would I have spent $380 for the new hands-free pump? Maybe -- I likely spent more than that for my two pumps anyway. I don't know about the hands-free part (I was able to work with the Medela PIS by tucking the horns into my regular bra) -- but the portability would have been great -- then I would have had less to haul around when I traveled. However, given how much trouble testers seemed to have with the apparatus (even those who have used pumps before), I worry it might be too tricky for many, and moms who are already struggling to make pumping work will just give up.

Oh, and I used Craigslist and DC Urban Moms to pass my pumps on to other moms. You can easily sterilize the tubing and horns -- or buy replacement kits if you feel you must have new stuff.

Posted by: Tee | May 13, 2008 1:39 PM | Report abuse

I love the idea of a smaller pump, and a rechargeable battery. That would be so much better than lugging the PIS at meetings and conventions!
I could go hands-free with the PIS too (with the rubber band technique), so that wouldn't make a difference.
I'm not sure if I'm willing to spend that much for a new pump when the next one comes. We'll see.... probably depends on how much traveling I expect to do!

Posted by: Toni | May 13, 2008 2:03 PM | Report abuse

I used the PIS up until my first childs first birthday with the hands free kit. When my second was born, I used it at work and invested in a Swing for home use (single version of Freestyle I guess) I did notice that the hands-free were often less productive than hands-on because I was more distracted. If I sat there holding the cones, staring at pictures of my child, I could get 24 oz in 10 minutes!

I hated the Medela bras because they were much less durable than my other nursing bras. Like another poster, I wore nursing bras because I didn't want to invest in huge regular bras I wouldn't need later. But I always wore a nursing bra, even to sleep. Helped retain my "form" even post-bf.

Posted by: AugustMom | May 13, 2008 3:52 PM | Report abuse

Also, the Medela Steam bags are a great quick way to clean and sterilize. I just rinsed off the equipment and stuck them in the bag with a few oz of water. 90 seconds in the microwave and I was set!

Posted by: AugustMom | May 13, 2008 3:54 PM | Report abuse

As a new mom (my son is almost 4 weeks old) with lactation difficulties, I went immediately for the hospital grade rental for the first month. I'm not producing as much as he needs and he won't latch on effectively (even with the consultants' help)so pumping will be my best option full time. I'm also a teacher and intend on returning to school in the fall. Are there any women who had to pump using these machines in less than private office spaces? In work situations that forced you to follow someone else's timing? I will have to pump during my lunch break (all 20 minutes) or planning period (varies by day) so speed and efficiency is key. What do you more experienced moms recommend?

Posted by: Virginiapup | May 13, 2008 4:08 PM | Report abuse

One of the people who reviewed this new pump said that it took her half the time than with the regular Medela Pump In Style pump. Did the other reviewers (or anyone out there who may have tried this) have this same experience? If so it may be worth the money just for the time savings alone.

I breastfed my son for one year and had to pump when I went back to work starting when he was 3 months old. The trick I devised for pumping hands free was to take a maternity support belt from Motherhood Maternity ($15) and cut holes about the size of a quarter over where my nipples are. Then I would basically use the belt to velcro the breast shields onto my breast and the hole allowed you to attach the other piece which attaches to the bottle. I am not well endowed however so I don't know if this would work as well for others who have more cleavage.

If it truly does take half the time with this new pump but the hands free part is a pain to use, I will probably buy it and just use my low tech solution to make it hands free.

Posted by: SoontobeMomof2 | May 13, 2008 4:28 PM | Report abuse

Just give the kid your tits. Not some plastic bottle with weird chemicals in it. Kids need real nipples. It's about more than just the milk!!

Posted by: please already | May 13, 2008 6:48 PM | Report abuse

no way can i afford close to 400 dollars for a pump. i had a hand avent pump that i have now returned due to bpa to bru. i have been hand expressing in the meantime. id gladly accept a free freestyle if the post has some extras, used included.

Posted by: allison | May 13, 2008 7:34 PM | Report abuse

Virginiapup:

Wanted to lend some support. I know how difficult it is to have a little one who doesn't latch. It took my first son 3 entire months to latch correctly. His mouth simply needed time to grow.

Your best bet to figure out a good solution is to talk with an experienced lactation consultant about how to time your pumpings in a way that works. One thing that may be effective is to try to get your child on the eating schedule that ties to your pumping. That probably seems impossible to you now, when baby is 1 month old, but may be more doable by the fall. Other tricks: Drink lots and lots of water and fenugreek.

One more thing, if you find that you simply can't make/pump enough milk and decide that a part nursing/part formula feeding schedule is your best solution, don't feel guilty about it. Nurse when and how much you can. Stressing about lack of production won't help your milk supply or your bonding with your baby.

Posted by: Stacey Garfinkle | May 13, 2008 8:58 PM | Report abuse

Thanks for the encouragement, Stacey. I am working with a breast feeding consultant in Fairfax and she's been telling me the same thing. Thanks, though, for the support.
Allison, just wanted to pass on the info that Medela brand bottles and accessories are BPA- free. That helped my decision to pump and feed him from a bottle plus helped my sanity.

Posted by: Virginiapup | May 13, 2008 10:03 PM | Report abuse

The FreeStyle may be Medela's newest pump, however the Whisper Wear Hands Free Pump is more advanced with awesome technology.. The pump is worn in the bra, one on each side and milk is collected in bags that are attached to the pump. Everything is under the clothing and can not be seen. Moms can pump anywhere and be completely discreet.

Posted by: Sharon | May 15, 2008 11:47 AM | Report abuse

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