Breast Pump Reviews: Stability versus Flexibility
I have finally gotten around to writing my breast pump reviews, after what has now been 4 months of using both the Medela Swing and the Elvie pump. They are both so different and I am still enjoying using both pumps but I wanted to review them in a way that makes things clearer for everyone who is looking to invest as, to me, there is no obvious winner but I hope that my ramblings will help some of you decide which is best for you!
For me, the Medela Swing has always been my recommended double pump and my “go to” for any client who is looking to buy a breast pump. It is totally reliable and always gets the job done. I say ‘reliable’, however, within four months with my first baby I got through three sets of “valves”, as the pump seemed to keep losing suction and this was pretty annoying. However, I soon learnt that it was very much down to the way you clean and dry it so, perhaps; actually it wasn’t the valves after all. Looking back I still don’t know 100%, but I do know that it worked really well most of the time and I was able to use it for pumping at least twice a day for 4 months straight.
The Medela now has a new “Personal Fit Flex Connector” and this has been the biggest joy for me using this pump the second time around. The shields have gone from plastic – to plastic with a silicone edging, which makes them super comfortable. The suction is improved and the valves are just easier to put into position and keep there, too. I would, without doubt, recommend the new Flex ends so make sure that you are looking for a Medela Swing Flex if you do decide to go down this route.
My pumping journey saw me use this pump almost every couple of hours for the first few weeks of Felix being born, as he had tongue tie and I wanted to make sure that I kept my supply going. At no point did I feel any negative feelings towards using it and it would sit next to me wherever I was in the house. A double pump is a no brainer for me; doing both sides at the same time rather than having to do one and then the other. Fast forward to four months of age and I now pump mostly just once a day in the evening. I use the Medela pump for this, as it means that I can sit back on the sofa and watch TV whilst pumping. It takes me roughly ten minutes to pump 100mls+ per side, although this of course is down to each individual and not the pump specifically. Although I still need to use my hands to hold it in place, I have managed to work out how to do this with my arms so that my hands (or at least one hand) is free to eat, change the channel or indeed the old scroll of an evening.
I started back at work when Felix was only 6 weeks old, something I wasn’t planning to do but there is no such thing as maternity leave when you run your own business. Initially I was just doing the odd thing here and there but, fairly quickly, I was up to doing at least one morning/day out of the house per week; however I was still breastfeeding exclusively as I hadn’t introduced formula, because of the potential tummy issues Felix had going on. I am also very much a person who doesn’t feel the need to stop doing things when I have a baby so I still try and make an effort to go to social events and see friends, although admittedly not so much second time around as I did the first.
I have found the Elvie pump invaluable in allowing me to be able to go out and about again whilst Felix was still so little, with the confidence that I didn’t have to do hours on end of feeling uncomfortable and could actually just pop the pump into my handbag and off I went. It is small enough to fit into a decent sized evening clutch bag and the bottles come with little lids which means that, if you want to, you could take the milk home with you. I have used the pump whilst driving, whilst speaking to clients on the phone (it is almost silent unlike the Medela which you wouldn’t get away with using whilst having a phone conversation with someone) and even whilst on a boat in the middle of the Solent. Although you can put batteries into the Medela and take it with you, there is no way I would have packed it all up and taken it with me or been able to use it in the same way. So as far as flexibility goes, it is a game changer! It is also discreet and very neat, I pumped at a table in a restaurant and you wouldn’t have known, aside from the little light that gives it away.
In the very early days, I would pop the Elvie into my bra and milk would practically fall out into it, meaning that in no time at all (8 minutes once!) I was able to get 120mls – I wouldn’t even hesitate to take it out with me knowing that this was the case. However, this was more for when I first started pumping and my supply was very intense.
I found, as my supply started to regulate and particularly at 12 weeks when milk supply changes, that the pump was a little harder to fit and it wouldn’t work quite so easily unless I positioned it directly into the exact place it needed to be. This led me to be frustrated, for a good week or so, that it had stopped working. I then learnt (from trial and error) that it hadn’t stopped working, but the way I was working it needed to change. It took a while but I can now use it out and about again, although I no longer rely on it 100%. I would say 75% of the time it does a good job and I get enough milk out to replace what would have been a feed and 25% of the time I find that I give up and can’t get it to work/position correctly so I end up, either, missing that feed or pumping later than I would otherwise have liked to, when I got home.
Which leads me to the next point: milk making – which makes more? I would say, overall, that the Medela probably gives me around 20% more milk per pump overall. So, if I was to rely on a pump to take exactly what I normally fed my baby per feed, the Medela would be closer to that. I wouldn’t worry about losing my supply on the Medela. The Elvie sometimes surprised me, some days I would get 140mls and other days 70mls and it would struggle to work for anything past that, so if I was to rely on it solely as a pump to replace baby’s feeds then I don’t think my supply would be as good. However, as a one off to pump something – to either give relief or just miss one feed here and there – then it is absolutely the ideal pump.
Another thing to consider is pumping hands free, which both of them allow if you buy a pumping bra from Medela (I didn’t). Moreover, I could happily sit with my toddler and play with him, being totally unaware I was pumping with the Elvie, whereas with the Medela he would want to press the buttons and get involved with the big yellow “toy-looking” box that controls it.
Ultimately, it comes down to what you need a pump for. If you are looking for a pump that allows you to pump effectively and regularly, with no need to go out and about, or perhaps you don’t plan to go to work or leave your baby at an early age, then the Medela, plugged in near your cosy spot on the sofa will be the perfect companion for you.
If, however, you are back to work quickly or want something that allows you to miss feeds more than once in a blue moon and pump with your hands free to do other things (within reason) then the Elvie is a good investment option, too. The Elvie, being more pricey, would have to be worth your while, too. I was #gifted the Elvie but, even if I had purchased it myself, the amount of work and clients it allowed me to see means I would have made my money back very quickly, however if I had just used it every now and then, this would not be the case.
Either way, both are excellent pumps and I have enjoyed using both. I think the Medela is a great, long time recommended pump that will do the job you need it to do and I hope that, one day, Elvie will be just as reliable, too. It is such a handy little contraption and, with a few tweaks, I feel like it could be a real game changer to working mums, mums of more than one baby and mums who just…need to get out a little bit!