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With its reputation for effectiveness and distinctive yellow coloured products, Medela is one of the best known names in the breast pump market. As well as selling a range of single and double electric and hand pumps and accessories, it also supplies hospital-grade pumps to maternity wards.
Its new Freestyle Flex is a double electric pump with plenty of bells and whistles to enhance the solid standard you’d expect from Medela.
Of all the Medela pumps, this one looks the swankiest. With its sleek digital display, slimline motor unit and the rechargeable USB battery and super-flexible breast shields, it’s a step up from the brand’s Swing Maxi Flex (£236.68 on Amazon). It also comes with a handy kit of accessories and an app to make the whole experience even easier. The whole package impressed our MFM judges at the 2020 MFM Awards, who crowned the product a Silver winner. However, it does have a pretty hefty RRP of £349.99.
Christy tested the pump at home in the weeks after her son was born, expressing in between feeds to build up a store of milk to use for occasional breaks and nights off.
What were your first impressions?
I was really excited about testing the new pump, having used a Medela single in the past and finding it very effective. After 3 babies I equate expressing with the chance for an occasional break, and Medela pumps are known for being efficient and easy to use.
There’s quite a lot in the box, so it feels a bit like a LOL Doll unboxing! I was impressed with the amount of kit you get and loved the fact that once you’ve unpacked all the individual items everything fits neatly in the black storage bag.
The control unit looks much more modern than the Medela Swing Flex Single (£135.48 on Amazon) pump I used with my first child. It also looks quite easy to fit together, which is reassuring for a technophobe like myself.
How does it compare to other pumps on the market?
Medela has a great reputation for making efficient and robust pumps, and I think the Freestyle Flex 2-Phase Double Electric Breast Pump lives up to this. It’s just as effective as the Swing Flex Single I’ve used in the past, if not more so thanks to the digital control unit and double pumps.
Of other pumps I’ve seen, it’s also the noisiest, and while the new-look digital display looks fancier than previous versions, it doesn’t have the sleeker looks of the Lola & Lykke Smart Wireless Breast Pump or the much-lauded Elvie. It also lacks the discretion of the Elvie’s super-portable design.
However, pumping milk is hardly about being stylish (not in my house at least!) and if you’re looking for a solid performer, with well-thought-out features to make pumping milk as easy as possible, then Medela offers an impressive product. Of course, with this comes a price tag that may put it out of reach for many parents, so I think you need to be a regular user to justify the expense over choosing one of the market’s cheaper alternatives.
A cheaper option would be Medela’s Swing Maxi Flex double, which offers the same comfortable and effective connectors and breast shields, but misses out the high-end features such as the informative digital display and the rechargeable battery.
How easy is the Medela Freestyle Flex 2-Phase Double Electric Breast Pump to set up?
It’s really easy to set up. You need to charge the motor unit’s battery for 2 hours and wash and sanitise everything before first use. Then it’s a matter of fitting the breast shields, connectors, tubes and pump up together. It’s pretty obvious which bits slot where, and then you just need to plug it in.
How easy is it to use?
It’s very easy to use, and I did my first pump without reading the usage instructions as it’s so user-friendly (although do read them through at some point as there’s lots of useful info in the manual, including the super-important washing and sanitising instructions).
The pump has 2 phases to mimic babies’ sucking habits – when you turn it on it starts the gentle but fast let-down phase to stimulate your milk flow, before automatically moving onto full pumping mode after a couple of minutes. If you want to skip the let-down phase you can hit the button to jump ahead. You can also delay the start by 10 seconds to give you time to make any adjustments.
To start pumping:
- Place the breast shields in position
- Press the power button on the side of the pump unit
- Press the play button
- The let-down programme will then start
- After 2 minutes the pumping phase will automatically begin
- You can adjust the pump level if you want to by pressing the plus and minus buttons at any point
What are some of the main features of the Medela Freestyle Flex double? Do they make a difference?
Medela uses what the brand calls a ‘2-Phase Expression’ technology, which aims to mimic babies’ natural sucking rhythm. So the first phase is fast to stimulate your milk flow, before it automatically slows down. It’s hard to know how much difference this makes to the effectiveness for me personally, but it makes sense and certainly feels very comfortable to use. By the time my baby was 7 weeks old, I found I could get a full feed of milk (around 110ml) per session.
Medela claims its Flex technology is clinically proven to get 11% more milk. Given the amount I pump varies depending on the time of day and time since the last feed, I’m not sure how they can measure that. However, I would definitely agree that it’s a very effective pump.
The smooth, flexible breast shields make it easy for me to get the perfect fit each time. They’re also positioned at a 105-degree angle, so the milk doesn’t collect at any point and dribble out when you disconnect each section or lean back. This angle also allows more of your breast to fit into the shield, and paired with the soft rubber edges means it reduces pressure on the breast so the milk flows more freely.
I also found these features prevented any leaks, so no crying over spilt breast milk for me and I felt I could move quite freely while expressing. The included bottle stands also mean you avoid the devastating scenario of knocking over a freshly expressed bottle of milk as you unplug!
Another great feature is you can rotate the bottle so it doesn’t have to just hang straight down from the connector. I’ve found this really helpful when I’ve had to feed my baby on one side while pumping on the other, as I can angle the bottle to make space for his legs.
Little details like this really make the Medela stand out for me – pumping is a pretty dull activity so anything that makes it more effective and comfortable gets a big thumbs up.
What did you think of the digital display on the Freestyle Flex double pump – is it useful?
The digital display is clear, showing the battery level, duration of the session, let down button, plus or minus buttons to adjust the pump strength and the start/pause button. I like the fact that it times how long I’m pumping for as I sometimes lose track of the time, and it even gives a twinkly bleeping sound at 15 minutes.
The only niggle is that I find pause button is very sensitive, and I’ve pressed it accidentally a few times when wearing the motor unit on my wrist. Some parent reviewers on the Medela website agree, with one saying, “A lock screen would be handy as it’s too easy to touch the wrong button. The original freestyle has a belt clip which I much prefer.”
How useful is the 10-second delay?
I think it’s pretty handy, to get the most effective pump, as it means I can get set up before the let-down phase starts. I find 10 seconds is enough time to check the shields and reposition them if needed before it starts the programme.
How much does it weigh?
It weighs less than 300g, meaning it’s definitely portable. The motor unit comes with a detachable wrist strap, and I didn’t find it a particularly heavy weight on my arm when I wandered around the house using the pump. Even when packed with the whole kit, the carrybag doesn’t feel too heavy and I’d feel quite happy taking it on my daily commute to work.
How effective is the Medela Freestyle Flex 2-Phase Double Electric Breast Pump?
I think it’s a strong and effective pump, which for me trumps any other benefits such as being portable or stylish. Its quality is also backed up by 17 reviewers on the Medela website, who rate it 4.6/5 for being easy to use, and “fantastic” and more portable than other models.
There are 9 settings ranging from a gentle suction to a pretty strong one, and it automatically starts off at level 4, which feels fine to me. I’ve tried it up to level 9 and found the higher settings are definitely stronger but not as comfortable. It’s good to have a range though, as you can adapt it to your own comfort levels and also make it stronger if you’re short on time.
How comfortable is the Medela Freestyle Flex 2-Phase Double Electric Breast Pump?
I find it really comfortable to use. As boobs come in all shapes and sizes, the pump comes with 2 pairs of Flex breast shields to help you get the best fit. Unlike many pumps, the shields are oval rather than round, so you can rotate them 360 degrees to find the best fit. As your breast shape changes depending on when you last expressed or fed your baby, this is a really useful feature. The instruction manual has a section on how to make sure you’ve chosen the best breast shield size, and how your nipple should look when correctly positioned.
I find the flexibility helpful in getting a good fit for the most effective pump each time.
The soft, flexible rim on each shield also makes it much more comfortable than the harder edge of the old-style shields I had used in the past – a little extra that makes me feel like it’s a really good quality product. The only discomfort I find is removing the shields at the end, as sometimes the suction can cause the interior to stick to my skin a bit.
How do you use it with the Easy Expression Bustier accessory?
I think the bustier, which costs £25, is an absolute must-have with this pump. To use it:
- Wrap the bustier around your body, and do up the zip and hook
- Position the breast shield on each breast, underneath the bustier
- Place the end of each shield through the holes in the bustier
- Fit the connectors onto each shield
I’m told you can buy cheaper generic versions of the bustier, but I found the Medela version fits well, and is so soft and comfortable I’d be happy to pay for this one. The fabric is very flexible and stretchy, so it’s easy to pull down if it bunches up as you’re putting it on, or to fit over part of a vest top if you’re just pulling it down to pump.
I tested the black version (it also comes in white) and find it so comfortable to wear. I use it every time I pump – the one time I didn’t bother, I found having to sit there holding the shields in place was so restricting I made sure I always had the bustier to hand after that.
How portable is the Medela Freestyle Flex 2-Phase Double Electric Breast Pump?
If you’re using it with the bustier and pop the digital unit on your wrist using the attached strap, then in theory you can use it anywhere if you’ve charged the batteries. However, with the two bottles and connectors protruding out of my chest, it certainly doesn’t feel a discreet ‘pump in the car on the school run’ option like the Elvie. Even if it were possible to disguise the pump, the vibrating sound is not easy to hide.
I find it brilliantly portable to wear around the house while using the bustier, but I wouldn’t venture out in public. Without the bustier, you can only use it while holding both breast shields in place, so I find I’m best off finding a comfortable chair and staying still. However, with a newborn baby and 2 kids in the house, having both of my hands hogged by the pump is tricky.
The storage bag that comes with the kit fits everything inside very nicely, even the coolbag. So although it’s too large to stash in your handbag it’s a convenient package to take on holiday or into the office with you. I also like the fact it makes it easier to keep everything in one place at home, so I don’t have to go around the house looking for the various parts.
How noisy is the pump?
Compared to other pumps I’ve seen, such as the Elvie and the Vital Baby Nurture Flexcone Electric Breast Pump, the Freestyle Flex is the noisiest. It makes a loud and distinctive vibrating sound with each pump.
However, it’s not a sharp or harsh sound, and is notably quieter when it’s actually on your breast, so I haven’t found it has disturbed my baby at all. Also, more than one parent reviewing it on the Medela site mention they think it’s a fairly quiet pump.
Can you use the Medela Freestyle Flex 2-Phase Double Electric Breast Pump as a single pump?
Yes, brilliantly you can easily turn it into a single pump. This came in handy one day where I was planning to pump but my son wanted an early feed, as once I’d fed him on one side I could pump on the other. To make it a single pump, you just remove the tube from 1 of the connectors and plug the end back into a hole in the intersection of the tubing. It will then only pump using one of the tubes rather than both.
Is the Medela Freestyle Flex double easy to clean?
Yes, it’s pretty easy to clean. Like any pump, you do so in 2 parts – washing and then sterilising the bits that come into contact with your milk, e.g. the bottles, connectors and breast shields.
All the parts pull apart easily, so it’s not a pain to disconnect them and they all fit easily on the drying rack beside the sink. Our steriliser has a drying mode, but we usually let them air dry overnight and then sterilise them the next morning.
The fiddliest part to clean are the connectors, as you have to pull them apart into 3 sections, but they all fit together quite easily. I like to wash them in hot soapy water and thoroughly rinse immediately after pumping, to make sure milk residue doesn’t dry and build up inside. This also means they have time to air dry before I need to use them again.
How long do the batteries last?
The rechargeable USB battery gives you up to 2 hours on a single full charge, which Medela estimates to be around 8 pumping sessions. I find I can express for 10-20 minutes depending on the time of day, and only need to charge it once a week or so, so it’s pretty decent.
It’s not as long as the Nuby Natural Touch Ultimate Double Digital Breast Pump, which gives you 3 hours on a full battery. However, charging once a week feels very manageable. The charging lead could be longer though, as I have to sit on the floor close to the wall socket if I’ve forgotten to charge and need to use the mains power.
Does the Medela Freestyle Flex 2-Phase Double Electric Breast Pump include milk storage bags?
No, you have to buy these separately. However, it does come with 4 storage bottles and lids – you pump directly into the bottle, then top it with the lid to store it.
Does it include a coolbag?
Yes, and this is a real bonus in my opinion. It comes with a brilliant cube-shaped cool bag, complete with a freezable icepack shaped to fit exactly 4 bottles around it. Although the kit is expensive, these extras really do make it nicer to use, especially if you’re taking it on holiday or to the office for example. So you could feasibly take it into work, pump at lunchtime, and store the milk in the bag until you get home.
How would you improve it?
I would include the bustier within the kit, even if it meant raising the price a little. It’s such a useful piece of kit and really makes the difference between being handsfree or not. When you’re a tired, time-poor mum of a new baby, being able to move around to make a cuppa while you pump is like gold dust.
I also wish there was a way to tell if you’re still expressing milk, as you can’t see if milk is still dripping into the bottle by looking directly from above. Some kind of flow sensor would take this pump to the next level for me, as for now I have to keep checking in the mirror to avoid wasting time pumping thin air!
What’s the Medela app like?
The app is designed to:
- Log your breastfeeding and pumping sessions, as well as baby’s sleep and nappies
- Provide stats of the tracked activity
- Answer pump and breastfeeding questions with a FAQ section
You can pair the app with the pump to automatically log your pumping sessions. It took a few attempts for my phone to find it, but once it did the pairing process took seconds. While I was trying I called the customer services number, and found they were really friendly and helpful, and answered the phone very promptly.
The app is quite comprehensive and user-friendly. You can log your breastfeeding times, with the option to record each time for left and right breast, and which side your baby ended with for the last feed. You can also log it manually, useful if you forget at the time and still want to keep track.
I found tracking (using a different app with a similar system) was really useful during the first few weeks, to make sure I was feeding regularly and for an equal time on each side. However, by 6 weeks my son’s feeding is well established so I don’t feel the need to track. However, if you do buy this pump before birth then I would recommend the Medela app as it’s very straightforward to use.
The app also gives you the option to rate the session as good or bad – I think this might be helpful for mums who struggle to feed in those early weeks, so they can keep track of how things are progressing.
I love that the pump activity can be tracked automatically (one less thing for me to do), although you have to record the volume yourself. This has helped me work out how long it will take me to express enough for an average bottle, making it easier to plan in a pumping session between feeds. You just open the app and make sure the pump is switched on, and it automatically transfers the data to the app.
I think the app isn’t for everyone – as a new parent you can feel overwhelmed with tasks and lack of free time, so date entry might not be top of your list! But I find tracking helpful for the few weeks until my baby’s feeding and my pumping sessions are more established, and the app is very user-friendly.
What’s in the box?
- 2 x 21mm breast shields
- 2 x 24mm breast shields
- 4 x bottles
- 1 x motor unit
- 2 x connectors
- 1 x tubing
- 4 x lid
- 2 x bottle stands
- 1 x power adaptor with cable
- 1 x cooler bag
- 1 x ice pack
- 1 x storage bag
- 1 x instructions leaflet
Is it good value for money?
If you’re going to use it regularly, then it really is a great-quality pump with some nice features and the added benefit of being a time-saving double. I really like it, and I think Medela sets the standard when it comes to pumps.
However, it’s a good deal dearer than most pumps, and you can pick up a decent single or even double pump from well-known brands for £100-200. So occasional pumpers will probably not find this the best value simply because it costs so much money. For the price you’re paying, I’d also like to see the game-changing bustier, and perhaps some starter feeding bottles, included in the kit.
By comparison, you can hire Medela’s hospital grade pump, which costs £47 for first 14 days and £47 each month after that or purchase the Swing Maxi Flex 2-Phase Double Electric Breast Pump for £250.
What extras can you buy for it?
Medela sells a range of accessories to make the whole pumping and milk-storing business a bit easier, including a bottle brush (£7) and Quick Clean Microwave Bags (£12.99 for 5) so you can micro-steam your kit in 3 minutes.
However, the must-have for me would be the Easy Expression Bustier (£25), which I would absolutely recommend to get the most out of using this pump.
It also sells Breast Milk Storage Bags (£7.99 for 50), which I found very useful. We usually store the milk in the fridge, in the reusable bottles provided with the kit. However, these disposable bags are great for freezing milk so you can keep it longer – they lie flat, which was essential in our batch-cooking full freezer, but can also stand upright. The double seal also lived up to its promise of no leaks, and while I don’t plan to use them too often for environmental reasons, they’re great for occasional use.
Where can I buy the Medela Freestyle Flex?
This is a truly fantastic quality pump, with plenty of small design details to make it as comfortable and efficient as possible. I love it! It’s easy to set up and use, very convenient (especially with the bustier) and very well designed. There’s very little I’d change about this pump – apart from the price.
If you’re a keen expresser who plans to use it regularly, and for a long time, then you may find this to be a great investment. As an efficient double pump, it’s also great for mums who are particularly short on time, and those who want to pump speedily in the workplace.
However, if you have a tighter budget then there are plenty of other options on the market which will do a decent, if perhaps not as good, job.
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|Model||Freestyle Flex 2-Phase Double Electric Breast Pump|
|Bottle type||Narrow neck|
|Power supply||Usb power pack|
|Components||Double breast pump, breast shields, control pad, 4x bottles and carry bag|