As an experienced pumping mama, I can honestly say that pumping is made easier and more convenient by Medela products. I remember debating back and forth between the Medela Freestyle and the Medela Pump In Style Advanced (PISA) when creating a baby registry for my daughter (now 3). Ultimately, I ended up with the Freestyle, and paid out of pocket for it. At that time, insurance companies were not providing coverage for breast pumps.
The Freestyle certainly came in handy during my time as an emergency veterinarian. If a patient needed to be triaged while I was pumping, I could slip the pump into the pocket on my scrub top or scrub pants, pull the scrub top down over the breast shields, and do my job while I continued to provide breast milk for my daughter. Recently, I have made the move back to a traditional day practice position, where I have a desk to pump at during the day. While emergencies still happen, I have a more structured break for pumping, and can do it now at my desk. While I enjoyed the convenience and diminutive size of the Freestyle, the vast majority of my friends purchased a PISA, often due to its lower price point. So, I wanted to see just how it compared to my trusty Freestyle, and hopefully, I would be able to recommend it as a viable option from a brand that I trust.
After 6 weeks of use, I can say that the PISA is equally as effective as the Freestyle, in my experience. I would without hesitation recommend the PISA for a mama who needs the ability to pump breast milk daily. The suction is on par with the Freestyle, and has the same two-phase expression technology that Medela pumps are known for in the industry. Just like the Freestyle, there is also a button on the PISA to start the expression phase sooner if your let-down starts before the standard two-minute stimulation phase has completed. The pump also has variable suction speed, which is adjusted with the turn of a dial on the right side of the pump. What I like about this is that I can set the pump speed/suction to my comfort. The drawback is that it is slightly difficult to get the exact same speed/suction each time since the dial does not have markings for a speed/suction “level.” (This is in comparison to the Freestyle which has an LCD display with the pumping speed/suction set to levels 1-9.)
The pump itself is set up with different parts than the Freestyle. The PISA parts are essentially the same as the Symphony (hospital grade) breast pump. Therefore, if you receiving a pumping kit in the hospital, those parts would be interchangeable with the PISA. The membranes are thin, and during the six weeks, I have had significant concerns that I’ll lose one in my washing basin. Being a bit of a “Girl Scout” pumping mama, I always carry a spare set of those little white membranes in the pumping bag. There’s nothing worse than finding you’ve lost a critical piece to your pump, and not being able to get that piece in a relative amount of time, leaving one in a very full and uncomfortable position!
For the purpose of my review, I definitely wanted to see how this pump compared to my Freestyle in terms of pumping on-the-go, or in my case, during my 40 minute commute in the mornings. Again, this pump is equally effective for that purpose as the Freestyle, with the only difference being that it sits on the car seat versus tucked in the drink holder. I separately purchased the vehicle adapter so as not to wear down the batteries, and that is a definite “must-have” if you plan on pumping on-the-go (i.e. in the car) frequently.
The PISA runs on either AC power or AA batteries. The pump comes with a battery pack that holds the (8) AA batteries. Quite honestly, I still have not taken the AC power adapter out of the box. Instead, to keep my desk a little less cluttered with cords and tubes, I use the battery pack with rechargeable Ni-Mh batteries. I purchased 16 Sanyo Eneloop batteries and two chargers from Amazon shortly after the pump arrived. I have found that one set of (8) batteries lasts about a week with regular (every 3-4 hours during the work day, 4-5 days a week) pumping. I have made it part of my Monday routine to automatically take out the set of batteries and replace/recharge those. Certainly one could run on AC power during the recharge period, and only purchase 8 batteries, but for consistency and ease of use, purchasing 16 batteries was worth it to me.
That being said, in terms of cost, adding the cost of the 16 batteries and the chargers puts the PISA only about $25 less than the Freestyle, which has an included rechargeable battery. In terms of power, the AC adapter is certainly an adequate option in the event that purchasing batteries (rechargeable or not) is not an option.
The PISA comes in a couple different bag options, and unlike the Freestyle, is integrated into the bag. Where the bag goes, the pump goes also! I reviewed the pump with an “on-the-go tote,” which looks like an oversized black purse. The bag is quite roomy, and allows me to keep my cooler with ice pack (included), hands-free pumping bra, extra Kiinde Twist pouches (see my previous Sippy Cup Mom review about this product), and the extra membranes as noted earlier in this review. I store my pumping parts in a Ziplock bag, and those also fit easily in the bag. The sides of the bag are conveniently outfitted with two pockets, intended for bottles (I think), but I often stick a spare pair of nursing pads in there, a Sharpie marker (to label the milk), and a granola bar for snacking while pumping.
What many mamas want to know when deciding if a particular brand of pump will work for them and their particular environment is the noise factor. After using this pump for six weeks, I actually think this pump may be a tad quieter than the Freestyle. I’ve used this pump and made phone calls to clients while using it without the fear of a client questioning the sound in the background. For me, the pump needs to be at least reasonably quiet so that I can multi-task and not worry about feeling like I’m in a milking parlor! I do realize that not all mamas *can* multi-task while pumping, or let-down does not occur, but in my case, this is not a factor.
As with all of the Medela pumps, the included breast shield is 24 mm. It is my best recommendation to new pumping mamas to get help sizing yourself initially either in the hospital after the birth of your baby or with a lactation consultant in your area when you’re establishing a pumping routine. A 24 mm breast shield for me is significantly too small, and would result in poor milk collection and potentially painful nipples from rubbing against the inside of the shields. However, there are a good number of mamas that will find this shield size to be adequate.
The bottom line is that the Pump-in-Style Advanced is a double electric breast pump that will meet the needs of virtually every pumping mama out there. It is conveniently packaged in its own bag with everything you need to get started (but do pay special attention to breast shield size), has both a corded and battery power option, and is essentially equal in function to the Freestyle with the same 2-phase expression technology. Yes, the Freestyle has some added convenience features, but none of those conveniences change the actual function of the pump. If you’re looking for a highly effective and convenient breast pump from a proven name in the industry,Medela’s Pump-in-Style Advanced is definitely a recommended product from the viewpoint of this very experienced pumping mama.
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Disclosure: I received the above item for review purposes only. All thoughts and opinions are my own.