Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Freestyle Breast Pump Review

by Guest Blogger, Elizabeth S., Huntsville, AL

The Medela Freestyle

BACKGROUND:  I am a working mother with a 6 month old.  I pump 3-4 times (30 minutes-1 hr sessions) during the workday and breastfeed 3-5 times a night and all the time on the weekends.  I do not have an over-abundant milk supply, but when breastfeeding exclusively my supply is fine.  I rented a Symphony breast pump for 2 months after my son was born, then switched to the Freestyle a week before I went back to work at 2 months postpartum.   I pumped at work using the Freestyle exclusively for 4 months.  I purchased the Freestyle from a big-box retailer after consulting only online reviews.  At the time I purchased the pump, I didn’t know any lactation consultants or working mothers who pumped, and purely from a research standpoint, the Freestyle sounded like the workhorse I was looking for.  Luckily, between the time I purchased the Freestyle, and the time I needed to use it, I discovered A Nurturing Moment and their team of lactation consultants, so when I had problems, I knew where to start looking for answers. 

RECOMMENDATION: I DO NOT recommend purchasing Medela’s Freestyle Breast Pump. 

“It’s like pumping with a jackhammer.”

The membranes, connectors, and backplates are easy to clean (much easier than the Pump-In-Style or
The Freestyle is intended to simplify pumping.
Symphony) and do not extend into the collection bottles, allowing collection of more milk.  The pump is highly portable, small, lightweight, rechargeable (up to 6 hrs of pumping on one charge of the battery, but you have to plug it in whenever you’re not using it), can function plugged into the wall outlet if desired, hands-free (I used the Simple Wishes pumping bra instead of the hands-free adapter kit), has a decent way to secure the pump to your waist,  never got moisture in the tubing, can do single or double pumping, and I loved the included timer and memory button that would remember and repeat your last pumping session.  I really wish I could recommend this pump, because the pros were awesome.

With each suck, serious vibration that is part of normal Freestyle pump operation is transferred directly to your breasts.  Over time, this caused me recurring breast tissue irritation, swelling, pain, and damage to my skin.  The pump did not fully empty my breasts at the highest setting I could tolerate (Level 4), which caused me to have issues with engorgement and severe difficulty pumping out enough milk to feed my son.  The only way I could handle the vibration somewhat was to slather myself with Lanolin before every pumping session, but all the symptoms above still occurred.  Medela doesn’t make the SoftFit breastshields that come with this pump in any size besides Medium, does not sell any as spare parts, and I could not use the PersonalFit breastshields (Medela’s regular breastshields) with this pump because they made the vibration issue ten times worse.  The pump is also extremely pricey and twice as loud (at least) as the Pump-In-Style or the Symphony.  I would place the Freestyle on the arm of my chair or on the table and feel the vibration throughout my body.  I changed from the Freestyle to the Symphony, and in the same session where I usually got 5 ounces with the Freestyle, I collected 7 ounces using the Symphony (time of day, pumping duration, and all other variables being equal – I ran this comparison the very next day, so the Symphony hadn’t had time to increase my milk production any). 

PURCHASING TIPS – ITEMS TO CONSIDER:  When you purchase a breast pump, give some thought to the customer service.  I didn’t, and now I’m out ~$400 for the pump, $120 for the connectors, membranes, and backplates, had 4 months of pain and stress, and almost lost my milk twice.  (I just hope there’s no long term damage.)  If you’re a working mother, an inadequate pump can sabotage your breastfeeding relationship with your child.  And the danger can be subtle – it took me a month to figure out what was going on after I realized there was a problem somewhere.  Yes, prices are higher at A Nurturing Moment than at the big-box or online retailers, but there is absolutely no substitute for Glenni’s customer service!  If you want Glenni and her team of lactation consultants to be around to help you with your breast pump and breastfeeding accessory purchases and concerns and problems in the future, then buy things from her today.  Or support your local breastfeeding accessory store and lactation consultants if you don’t live in the Huntsville, AL area.  And no, Glenni didn’t (and won’t) pay me to say that.  It’s just common sense.  Consider the following:
  • Will the sales personnel at the retailer where you plan to purchase your breast pump know anything about pumping, about combination breastfeeding and pumping, or about the problems you might encounter? 
  • Can your retailer show you how to set up and use your pump?  Yes, I know pumps come with instruction manuals, but I had no idea if my pump was working right after I put it together – it made strange noises, and was awkward, and I had no idea if the breastshields were a good fit.  I needed some hands-on help.  You might too. 
  • Does your retailer have lactation consultants on staff you can consult with when you have issues? 
  • Will your retailer try and sell you a pump that will meet your personal needs after some discussion with you, or will they just sell you anything? 
  • Can you swing by your retailer for help when something’s not working, and physically show them what’s wrong?  Some problems can only be demonstrated. 
  • Can your retailer’s lactation consultants provide an informed opinion on whether your problems are caused by your pump, your baby’s suck pattern or latch, your diet, an infection, etc., and provide educated guidance on how to fix them? 
Surely it’s worth the extra few bucks to keep A Nurturing Moment or your local breastfeeding accessory store and lactation consultants in business. 


  1. This pump was created basing on Medela's innovation of Two-phase action and works in way that it is clipped to the nursing bra of a mother, this process is doe very easily courtesy of its small size. The pump also imitates the child's sucking motion as it collects the milk.

  2. Both the Symphony and the Pump in Style also use the same innovative Two-phase expression. While some mothers do truly love the Freestyle, we have had many mothers prefer the other high quality Medela pumps!