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Medela is a brand that’s synonymous with breast pumps and has been in business for over 50 years, researching the science of breastfeeding and supporting breastfeeding mothers. The brand’s pumps have won countless awards and accolades, including a MadeForMums Gold Award.
Thanks to their bright yellow appearance, Medela breast pumps are instantly recognisable and you’re likely to have seen one on the maternity ward – after all, they’re found in 94% of UK hospitals.
The forerunner of this pump – the classic Medela Swing Maxi pump – was launched in 2012 to great acclaim. It allows mothers to pump 18% more milk than traditional pumps in half the time thanks to the combination of simultaneous expression and 2-Phase Expression technology, which effectively mimics the sucking pattern of a baby at the breast.
This model – the Flex – is Medela’s latest launch and the company’s attempt to come up with what it claims is a game-changer for your breastfeeding journey. Retailing for around £249, it’s considerably more expensive than the Lansinoh 2-in-1 double electric breast pump and the ARDO Calypso double plus electric breast pump but less than the single Elvie Pump.
Gabrielle tested the pump in the comfort of her home, expressing between feeds while her 4-month-old baby girl slept on or snuggled with her dad. Her aim was to express enough for a bottle or 2 for when she nipped to the gym or went out in the evenings.
What were your first impressions of the Medela Swing Maxi Flex?
To me, it looked just the same as the Swing Maxi – but with different breast shields and connectors. I was a bit disappointed at first as I thought the whole thing would be reimagined but these slight-seeming differences proved to be highly significant, giving it several advantages over the classic Swing Maxi.
It’s still bright yellow, it’s still reminiscent of milking-parlour equipment and still looks like a medical device, but it’s even more efficient and comfortable than its predecessor.
How is it different to the classic Medela Swing pump?
There are no differences between the motor or bottles – so you get the same clever Medela 2-Phase Expression technology that mimics the sucking motion of a baby and the same generous bottles that come with the classic Swing. The variations are the breast shields – known as PersonalFit Flex breast shields – connectors and flex.
But these small differences are significant – in fact the company says they help increase your milk yield by 11% per pumping session as well as offering enhanced comfort and preventing more leaks. The oval breast shield is a different shape to the standard round one and can be rotated 360 degrees, helping you find the best fit for each breast at every pumping session.
It also opens up at a 105 degree angle rather than the traditional 90 degree angle, allowing more of your breast to fit into the shield, and is rimmed in soft, pliable rubber that provides a comfortable but secure seal. The increased comfort and breast tissue ‘uptake’ reduces pressure and allows milk to flow more freely. Meanwhile, the flexible seal around the breast virtually eradicates leaks, and the closed system with new connectors puts an end to milk being sucked back into the tubing, so you can pump while reclining, safe in the knowledge your milk will go into the bottle and not the tubing.
How does it compare to other pumps on the market?
The great thing about the Flex is it has the reliability of the Medela Swing Maxi and the comfort of the Elvie Pump. The PersonalFit Flex breast shields make it even more efficient than the regular Swing Maxi and far less likely to leak than the Elvie pump.
However, in style terms, it lags well behind the Elvie Pump, with its sleek curves and pleasing muted colours. This Swing Maxi Flex is bright yellow and, thanks to its motor, fairly noisy. It also lacks the digital display of the Yoomi 3-in-1 electric breast pump.
While I wouldn’t say it’s a ‘game-changer’ in the same way the tubeless, hands-free Elvie Pump is, I do think Medela has produced something that is hard to beat.
I love that I can personalise the breast shields at every single pumping session by rotating the oval-shaped, rubber-edged cone to suit the shape of each breast, as they vary depending on the time of day and when I’ve last fed my baby. I think I’d struggle to go back to a conventional breast shield having used the PersonalFit Flex variety.
How portable is the Medela Swing Maxi Flex? Could you use it out and about?
Although the pump is fairly portable as the motor is light and can be powered by batteries (as well as mains), it’s a fairly large bit of kit to cart about with the bottles, connectors and flex attached. And without investing in the special Medela bustier you can’t use it hands free, so it’s not exactly suitable for pumping ‘on the go’.
You could certainly take it on holiday with you, or bring it into the office on a weekly basis, but it’s not as discrete as the Elvie Pump and, when you factor in bottles, connectors, motor and tubing, it would take up a large chunk of handbag space.
How effective is the Medela Swing Maxi Flex?
According to Medela, which has carried out extensive research involving 4 clinical studies and over 1,000 pumping sessions, the new shape is significantly more efficient than the standard breast shield – yielding up to 11% more milk per session.
Personally, I really like the Flex breast shields as they feel like they put the right amount of pressure on more of my breasts when compared to conventional shields. More comfort and more breast in the shield equates to better milk flow and more milk.
I can confidently say I pumped more liquid using this model than with either the Swing Maxi, Swing or the Elvie single pump.
Were there any issues?
The only problem I encountered was that to ensure the whole rubber edge remained in full contact with my breast and the seal stayed consistent, I had to hold the breast shields firmly into place against my chest, so really needed both hands. This left me struggling to adjust the speed settings on the motor. I was able to balance the bottles on my legs and lean forward into the shields for short periods of time, but it really is a 2-handed operation.
Is the Medela Swing Maxi Flex easy to clean?
Yes, once you pop open the connector and release the membrane, all parts can be easily cleaned with a standard bottle brush or sponge. Once washed, the parts fit into my decent-sized steriliser but take up almost all the space, so there’s very little room left for feeding bottles, teats and lids.
What’s in the box?
Swing Maxi motor unit
2 bottles with lids
2 bottle stands
2 PersonalFit Flex connectors
2 PersonalFit Flex breast shields in 21mm size, 2 in 24mm size
An IFU Swing maxi Flex
A Quick Card
Is it easy to put together?
Although it’s easy to work out which piece goes where, I found the PersonalFit Flex connector fiddly to put together and pull apart. It also took a lot of pressure to push the connector into place and on one session it popped apart, meaning the pump lost pressure and I had to interrupt my session.
What’s the Medela app like?
It’s comprehensive, but nowhere near as ambitious or high-tech as the Elvie Pump app, largely because it doesn’t communicate with the pump. So you have to log every pump session manually. That said, it is great if you’re combi feeding and monitoring your baby’s development more generally, as you can log bottle feeds, naps and dirty nappies, alongside information about each pumping session. It’s also a good place to get valuable breast feeding, pumping and wellbeing information and advice.
Who would the pump be most useful for?
Because it’s so reliable, but also quite expensive, the Medela Swing Maxi Flex is the perfect pump for a mum who needs to express regularly, either to boost her supply or to feed her baby once she’s returned to work.
It would be ideal to keep at the office as it’s marvellously efficient and far less prone to leaking than hard plastic breast shields. It would also be good if you want something to keep by your bed for late-night and overnight pumping sessions, since the unique design means you can recline without worrying about milk dribbling out of the shields and onto your PJs or pillow or escaping into the tubing. Just be prepared to wake up your sleeping partner as it’s very noisy compared to the super-quiet Elvie Pump.
What would you have wanted to know before buying the Medela Swing Maxi Flex?
If I already owned a Swing Maxi, it would be handy to know that I could just buy the PersonalFit Flex breast shields (£14.99 each) and Flex connectors, which come with the tubing necessary to link connectors to motor.
It’s portable but without mains power the motor requires six AAA batteries and there’s no way of knowing how much power/how many pumping hours you have left.
It’s also noisy compared to more discreet pumps such as the Elvie Pump.
Is it good value for money?
The price is steep, but having used Medela pumps with all 3 of my children, I think it represents good value for money as I’d expect the product to work reliably throughout months and months of regular pumping.
Medela makes brilliant motors and fantastically robust pump parts. The price – which is only a tenner more than the regular Swing Maxi double electric breast pump – can be justified not only because of how long the pump will last (pumping multiple times a day over months and months) but also because of all the research and technology that has gone into the product.
If you can’t stretch financially to the Swing Maxi Flex, look at the Swing Flex, the single version of this pump.
What extras can you buy for it?
You can buy different sized breast shields for the pump – there are 4 different ones to choose from and to find the best fit, you need to measure the height of your nipple. If you want to go hands-free, you can also purchase a special bustier from Medela.
If you don’t yet own a double electric pump and are looking for a reliable option that will see you through from first tentative expression to daily pumping at work when your mat leave is up, this is the ideal choice.
It’s totally worth spending the extra £10 on this latest version versus the regular Swing Maxi as the Flex is so comfortable compared to the standard hard breast shields and offers the benefits of being virtually leak-proof, even if you prefer to pump while reclining.
Crucially, it could help you pump 11% more milk and, as you know when you’re pumping, every drop counts.