Friday, August 30, 2013

Breast Pump Comparison and Trial

After 3 weeks of very scientific “experimenting” I am super excited to release the results of my Breast Pump study!!!

As you may have gathered I am breastfeeding my second daughter and have recently returned to work.  With my first daughter I purchased a Medela Pump in Style so that I could pump while at work and she could continue to breastfeed (my work offers a great program where they subsidize the cost of a pump).  With my second daughter I was able to get 2 additional new breast pumps: the Ameda Purely Yours and the Medela Freestyle.  The Medela was part of my work program again and the Ameda I received from my health insurance company as part of the new requirements under the Affordable Care Act (if you are expecting or a new mom call your insurance to find out what options are available to you, most are providing free double electric pumps).  Now that I have 3 breast pumps and I figure that not many people really get to try out and compare pumps, I decided it would be fun to it was my responsibility to try them out and compare them.

To test them I used each pump at work for a week.  I work three days a week and I pump 3 times a day so that was 9 total uses each.  Also, to level the playing field I fed my daughter at the same time each morning and pumped right after with the Freestyle while finishing getting ready.  I pumped at the same time each day when possible and pumped for the same amount of time each session.  There may be other variables that affected my results such as diet, stress, my daughters appetite, etc, so take that into consideration when reviewing the results.

Ameda Purely Yours
On Amazon this pump is going for $180 and I have seen this as an option for many Health Insurance Companies.

 Total Milk Collected: 36 ounces
Average Milk collected per day: 12 ounces
Weight with bag but without bottles and bottle case: 3 pounds, 3 ounces
Weight of pump without bag: 1 pound, 5 ounces

Overall I thought this was a solid pump, it pumped the a little bit more than the PIS and less than the Freestyle but if pumped enough that I felt it was working appropriately and I had enough milk for my baby.  One of the big benefits of this pump is that it is a closed system and therefore milk is not able to get into the pump or tubing.  This means that the motor stays clean and the pump can be used for multiple people.  Some of the other things I really liked about the Ameda is that it has a place to put the bottles so that they don't tip over and spill (nothing like pumping for 15 minutes and then spilling milk!) and that the pump is removable from the bag.  Another thing I that is great is that the Ameda comes with 6 bottles, for me this  makes the most sense as I use 2 bottles per session and therefore need 6 to get through the work day.  Both Medelas come with only 4 bottles so it requires transferring milk and pumping into a used bottle or bringing more than fit into the cooler bag.
Another thing I like about this pump is that you can manually adjust the speed and the suction.  Because this pump does not have a 2 phases (let down phase and expression phase) like the Medela this comes in handy to manually mimic the let down phase.  I start with lower suction and higher speed and once milk starts flowing I switch to more suction and lower speed. 
Most of the things I don't like about this pump have to do with the parts.  My biggest parts complaint is the way the flanges are designed makes it so that milk has many nooks and crannies that it can get into and I found them hard to clean.  The shape also makes it more tricky to get into the hands free nursing bra I have, I generally have to put the bra on first and then push the flanges through.  Also, the valves (little white cone pieces) are really sensitive and I tore a few of them while washing them, I recommend having extra on hand because they tear easily (and are not cheap!).  Lastly the adapter cups do not lock into the flanges in any way and I would frequently end up with them falling out and onto the floor.  There are multiple pieces to these pumps and I found that everything had to be attached perfectly or else it wouldn't work.  This is my biggest complaint about this pump and I would estimate that 30% of the time I would have to disassemble everything and reassemble once or more to get it to work.  On a few occasions I wasn't able to figure out what is wrong and just switched to another pump.  Overall this is a good pump and will work just fine if it is the one provided for free by your insurance but I don't think I would have bought it at full price myself.

Medela Pump in Style
You can buy this pump on Amazon for $250 and I have seen this as an option for some of the Health Insurance Companies but not as many as for the Ameda.
Total Milk Collected: 35 ounces
Average Milk collected per day: 11.67 ounces
Weight with bag but without bottles and bottle case: 4 pounds, 8 ounces
Weight of pump without bag: N/A, pump built into bag

The Medela Pump in Style was the breast pump I used with my first daughter when I returned to work.  This one has been used more than my other pumps, but I only used it for 6 months at work so it still works like it is new.  When I used it for my first daughter I felt like I didn't get as much as I needed because I would frequently have to dig into my freezer stash to supplement what I had pumped.  I spent a lot of time on the phone with Medela's customer service (which is great by the way) troubleshooting.  In the end I think the problem was that I was pregnant with #2 and my milk supply was suffering, I actually had no milk left by Claire's first birthday. 
Overall this is a good pump and pretty much the industry standard for double electric pumps.  Out of the three pumps I tried, I would say that this is the most consistent pump.  I also like that the parts break down easy and are easy to clean.  I have never had problems with suction on this pump like I did with the other two I own and have never had to take it apart and reassemble to get it to work.  The Medela pumps have the two phase pumping (let down and expression) which I do think makes a big difference in how well they work. 
Some of the cons of this pump is that the actual pump is built into the bag and can not be separated.  This makes it so that you always have to have the bag and can't just put the pump in another bag (e.g. suitcase for travel or computer bag for work).  This pump is also extremely HEAVY!!  It didn't bother me much when I went back to work with my oldest, but now having lighter pumps to compare it to I really notice how heavy it is.  Also, I remember traveling once with it and thinking that it really was very heave, which is not convenient when you already have a suitcase, computer bag and a purse.  Another downside of the Medela pumps is that the cooler bag only holds 4 bottles, so at work I have to condense the milk into other bottles and then pump into an old bottle.  The Medela bottles do hold about 2 ounces more than the Ameda ones so it isn't that big of a deal as far as total capacity.  Since the pump is built into the bag and it takes up a lot of room, I also notice that I can't fit a lot of other things in the bag and still zip it. 
A common concern with this pump is that it is not a closed system, which means that milk can back up into the tubes and potentially into the pump motor.  In all of my use with this pump I have only see a bit of condensation about an inch into the tubing and never actually seen any significant amounts of milk get into the tubing.  To dry out the tubes, I let the pump run for about 2 minutes after I am finished.  This is about the amount of time it takes for me to get redressed and pack up my things and by this time the tubes are clear again.
Overall this is a good pump, I don't necessarily think that in terms out output it is any better than the Ameda but I do appreciate that it consistently works and I don't have to fuss with the pump parts as much as I did with the Ameda.

Medela Freestyle
You can buy this pump on Amazon for $318, I have not seen this as an option through any Health Insurance Companies.
Total Milk Collected: 42 ounces
Average Milk collected per day: 14 ounces
Weight with bag but without bottles and bottle case: 1 pound, 9 ounces
Weight of pump without bag: 13 ounces

Out of the three pumps I own this is definitely my favorite.  I think it has the best features and I was surprised that it actually pumped the most.  A lot of reviews online say that the motor on this pump is not that good and they had problems with output, but as you can see this pump exceeded the other pumps by 15-20%!!!
This pump really meets a lot of my needs, it is light weight, small, powerful and easy to clean.  As noted above this pump is less than a pound, which really makes a difference when you are lugging a bunch of stuff around.  It also is small and therefore fits easily in the bag with my pumping bra, bottles and pump parts.  I am going out of town next week (stay tuned for tips while traveling) and it will be so convenient to just throw this pump in my computer bag and go!  I can pack extra bottles, etc. in my suitcase and I will be set for travel.  This pump is intended for hands free use while moving around and it really lives up to that.  I use this pump in the morning while getting ready.  The clip is a little difficult, but it is nice to be able to clip it to my pants.  I also like that the pump parts break apart easily and are easy to clean and reassemble, probably the easiest of any of the pumps. 
Some of the cons that I noticed about this pump is that the tubing is not very long because it is intended to stay close to you therefore it might be more inconvenient if you put it on the table and try and move away from it at all.  Also the pump is maybe slightly louder than the other pump (although the Ameda is a little more quiet it does have an annoying beep).  Lastly just like the Pump in Style it does only come with 4 bottles in the cooler bag.  Like the Pump in Style, it is not considered to be a closed system and therefore should only be used by one person.  But unlike the Pump in Style I never had any problems with any condensation in the tubes.  Also there were a few instances that I would have to disassemble and reassemble the pump to get it to work, but it was not as frequent as the Ameda.
Overall this was my favorite pump, it was the lightest and easiest to use and of course the most important thing was that it pumped the most milk.

While I may have a favorite out the three I own, I would definitely say that any of these would work find for a mom returning to work. They all work well and make continuing to feed your baby breast milk when you return to work a possibility.  I think it is great that the new laws require health insurance companies to provide a pump to new moms, so be sure to take advantage of your plan!
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