Medela Freestyle breast pump with Calma review
In a nutshell
Medela's top-of-the-range electric breast pump that uses Medela's 2-phase Expression Technology and allows mums to switch between single and double expressing modes.
What we tested
- Ease of use
4.0A star rating of 4.0 out of 5.
4.5A star rating of 4.5 out of 5.
- Ease of cleaning
5.0A star rating of 5.0 out of 5.
4.0A star rating of 4.0 out of 5.
4.0A star rating of 4.0 out of 5.
- Worth the money
2.5A star rating of 2.5 out of 5.
- Efficient, comfortable, mains or battery operated, single or double pump options, nine power levels, programmable memory, backlit LCD screen.
- Expensive, complicated, quite noisy, requires additional spend for hands-free option.
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Medela have been leading the field with breastfeeding products for 30 years, often introducing innovative technologies based upon their extensive academic research trials. The Swiss company’s range of electric pumps all incorporates its two phase Expression Technologies including the Freestyle Breast Pump with Calma, which is the premium product in its range.
The Medela Freestyle Breast Pump with Calma is the most extensive – and expensive - device of its kind on the market. At £329.99, the array of accessories supplied alongside the core pump unit is impressive. It’s clear that Medela want you to hit the ground running when you have to express.
You may have also seen recent reports (October 2016) in the news about Medela issuing a safety warning on its breast pumps.
What actually happened with the recall?
A few parents reported that the detachable power plug on some electric Medela breast pumps broke apart, causing a potential risk of electric shock.
It effects Type G detachable power plugs only, but Medela have since stopped selling the pumps and started a "precautionary and voluntary plug replacement programme".
You can check to see if you have a recalled Swing, Swing Maxi and Freestyle pump using these product numbers:
Medela Swing: 200.4730, 030.0030, 030.0032, 030.0035, 030.0039, 030.0039 01, 030.0043, 030.0044, 030.0048, 030.0052, 030.0056, 030.0057, 099.0017
Medela Swing Maxi: 200.4726, 040.0005, 040.0007, 040.0010, 040.0014, 040.0015, 040.0016, 040.0019, 040.0024
Medela Freestyle: 042.0009, 042.0011, 042.0013, 042.0013 01, 042.0015, 099.0272, 099.0274.
What Medela say:
“The wellbeing and safety of mums and babies is our upmost priority and will always come first for Medela. There have been a few isolated incidents with the detachable plug, therefore we have decided to put in place a voluntary replacement programme. We would like to reassure all parents that our breastpumps themselves are fine and you can continue to use it with batteries. We will be able to serve parents who register for a new plug as of next week.”
What you can do:
- Medea says you should removeg the detachable plug from the power supply adapter slowly, with as little force as possible, to prevent it from breaking apart.
- If the plug does break apart, you should turn off the power source before removing the power supply adapter from the wall.
- You can order a free replacement plug on the Medela site or Facebook page. And while you wait, Medela will send customers batteries to use.
- Originally Medela stopped selling the pumps, but they have updated the pumps and the new ones are now available to buy
Seeing all the many little bits and bobs in the box made the pump look a bit daunting and made me think, “I was under the impression that the most natural thing in the world ought to be simple!”
Luckily the instruction manual supplied is clear and concise. If it’s your first time using a pump, make sure you have a read first and get your head around what all the bits and bobs are for. You probably won’t even use most of them at the outset.
What’s it like getting started?
As said above, when you open the box, you could feel a bit overwhelmed! But it’s best to take it slow at first - give yourself plenty of time to charge the batteries, and sterilise the bottles and connectors before you express.
How does it express?
The breast pump unit is what it’s all about, and I can’t fault it. I’ve been happy using an early version of the excellent Medela Swing, and I’ve also used hospital grade pumps.
The Freestyle has discreet styling in an appealing shade of ‘Medela yellow’, it’s lightweight, and it can run for around three hours on one battery charge, which is handy.
But most of all, I found the Freestyle managed to express about a third more in volume, which made me really happy. Every drop counts!
Tell us about the 2-phase Expression Technology.
It’s the big selling point across the whole Medela range. Featuring an initial fast phase (yep, I know that hungry desperation!) followed by a more regular rhythm, just like a baby’s nursing action.
While I can’t say the machine felt at all similar – and my baby (thank the Lord) doesn’t make such a loud ‘vroom vroom vroom’ noise. The expression action was comfy enough, gentle and stimulating, and it got the most of my milk flow, which is the vital issue.
What do you think of the overall pump action?
You can choose how strong the pump action is on a scale of one to nine. So because I was already used to the Medela Swing, I quickly shuffled through the options on the built-in LCD screen until I got to the strongest pump setting, and locked it into the Freestyle’s clever memory function. Job done.
Tell us about the pump’s double action.
In the early weeks following baby Ru’s birth I thought I might go a bit mad with his seemingly endless need to feed. Without an over-abundance of milk, I had to feed him for an hour and then express in order to ‘get my order in’ for his next meal, spending endless ages pinned to the sofa while he ate.
I was excited to use a double pump as I thought, “fantastic, I can save half the time I spend expressing.” And I’m sure women whose cup runneth over could see both BPA-free bottles fill up super-quick.
But if you have to use hot flannels or massage to increase your milk supply then double action, however tempting, is not for you. I got the most out of the Freestyle as a really efficient single pump.
I also found the double action process very clumsy. Medela used to advertise the Freestyle as a hands-free pump and it came with special straps to help attach to normal nursing bras; not any more.
However they do recommend their industrial-looking Easy Expression Bustier (not supplied, £30), which holds the breastshields to your boobs for apparent hands-free action.
Without it, I had to hold both the breastshields on the whole time; making it hard to do anything, even reach the on-off button; it’s very ungainly.
Enterprising mummies suggest creating your own cut-holes-in-an-old sports-bra option, which is a good idea, but for £329.99, to be honest, why is the solution not in the pack?
What about the extras?
Medela justify their hefty price tag with all the added extras, but I wish they sold the great pump on its own, for a cheaper price. I don’t need another plain black bag, a cool bag or an ice block, for starters.
But there are extras I might need – like the hand-free bustier, or other breastshield size options, that could be hard to do without and would inflate the already high price.
Tell us about the Calma system
This is basically a very technical teat, which fits atop the standard Medela storage bottles (four of the 150ml size are supplied).
The Calma is designed to mimic the baby’s natural sucking motion, thereby eliminating nipple confusion in the youngest infants, enabling them to go back and forward to the breast.
But I’m afraid it wasn’t a winner with baby Ru, who, with feeding already established, has his work cut out trying to differentiate between breast, regular Medela teats and his dummy.
Saying that, the Calma is definitely worth a shot if you have problems with latching, just starting out or you already know your baby won’t accept regular bottles.
Otherwise I’d be tempted to stick with the standard teats (newborn slow version). Not least because there’s only one Calma teat in the box, so you’ll either have to sterilise it every single time you want to feed expressed milk, or buy several more Calma teat bottles at £15.99 each!
Who is the Medela Freestyle breast pump best for?
The Freestyle is great for bleary-eyed mamas desperate to find a way to spend less time pinned to the sofa while your little one fills his tum.
In addition, the pump is great for women who need to up their milk supply quickly, or maintain milk levels when they go back to work. I took it with me when we had an overnight trip away, and I wanted to express so I could leave baby Ru with his auntie for the evening.
It travelled well but you will need somewhere private to work its magic – the noise of the pump is hard to ignore.
What’s In The Box?
- Breast pump unit with mains adaptor
- Rechargeable lithium battery
- 2 PersonalFit breastshields size medium (24mm)
- 2 Freestyle connectors
- 1 Freestyle tubing element
- 4 150ml bottles
- 4 bottle lids and discs
- 1 Calma Solitaire teat
- 2 bottle stands
- 2 Calma multi lids
- 1 Cooler bag
- 1 Cooling element
- 1 Freestyle Carry bag
Any additional extras?
- Disposable nursing pads - £3.99
- Nipple shields - £8.99
- Calma Solitaire -£11.99
- Nipple formers - £9.99
- Purelan Nipple cream - £6.99
- Quick clean microwave bags - £12.95
- City style breastpump bag - £35.00
- B-well bottle warmer - £55.00
Breastfeeding can be very challenging and the Medela Freestyle makes the process as stress-free as possible, but it comes at a price.
If money is no object then this is a great package, but do wait til your milk comes in, and be sure breastfeeding is a life choice you’ll stick with for more than a few weeks, before shelling out.
|Freestyle breast pump with Calma
|Batteries and mains