With so many breast pumps on the market these days, it’s normal to be overwhelmed by the options and confused which is the best for you. In this article, I will compare and contrast the Medela Pump in Style and the Medela Freestyle. For an in-depth look at how the Freestyle compares to the Ameda Purely Yours, read my article here.
Let’s start with the comparisons. How are these two pumps similar?
The Freestyle and Pump in Style both have the option of running on batteries, which is a plus if you won’t be near an outlet.
Both breast pumps are made by Medela, one of the most renowned manufacturers of breast pumps worldwide. They sell more pumps than any other breast pump company, have excellent customer service (often sending out replacement pieces and even new pumps when deemed necessary), and are continuously doing research to improve and fine tune their breast pumps. You can also easily buy additional pump pieces online or at a retail store. This is a major perk if your pump has a broken piece and you need it replaced before work the next morning! Your local Target or Babies R Us likely has what you need.
The Freestyle and PIS both work using Medela’s trademarked two phase letdown technology. Some users love it, some hate it. To bypass it, as soon as the pump slows down, you start it again to get back to maximum speed.
The Freestyle and Pump in Style are both very easy to use and include clear instructions. You adjust the vacuum level as needed for desired suction, and you can control the suction increasing with the speed decreasing if let down happens before the automatic two minute mark with a simple press of a button.
Neither the Freestyle nor the Pump in Style has a barrier to prevent milk from backing up into their tubes. This is known as an open system breast pump. This means that after each pumping session, you will need to attach just the tubing to the pump motor and leave the motor running for an additional two minutes to ensure that the tubing is completely dry to prevent moisture buildup leading to mold. It also means that they are not approved as multiple user breast pumps.
The Freestyle and Pump in Style both come with a bag to transport the pump.The Pump in Style and Freestyle both include a one year warranty on the motor and a 90 day warranty on parts.
So what is different about them?
Some of the added benefits of the Freestyle pump are:
- Its weight
- Ability to record your favorite pumping session
- Built-in hands-free mechanism
- All actions are controlled by buttons with no dials to turn. Much more modern!
Some of the negatives of the Freestyle are:
- According to customer reviews, the Freestyle may not be as efficient as the Pump in Style.
- Rechargeable battery vs standard AA (may be a pro or con, depending on how you perceive it!)
Let’s examine these specifics in detail and see which pump is better for your personal lifestyle and needs.
Weight: The Medela Freestyle weighs less than one pound, while the Medela Pump in Style weighs 2.5 pounds. Neither pump weighs a whole lot, but less than one pound sure sounds light for a double electric breast pump.
Favorite Session Recording: The Medela Freestyle includes a built in timer and memory button that allows you to save the length of the stimulation phase, as well as the vacuum level in both the stimulation and expression phase. Once you save your favorite session, it can easily be duplicated many times over. This option in theory is a huge plus for the majority of women who don’t have a letdown at exactly 2 minutes! If your body always has a similar letdown reaction to pumping, this will work well for you. However, if your body fluctuates when letdown occurs and how much suction is best for you, it might be overkill to pay for it. It’s too individual to give a clear answer if this is worth it to pay for.
Built in hands-free mechanism: The Freestyle includes accessories that allow you to pump “hands free,” enabling you to be mobile while pumping. This is a big plus for today’s busy mom. You can actually pump while working on your laptop, cooking dinner, or reading a newspaper or your favorite novel. You might find it super helpful, or you may end up always locking yourself in a room for privacy and not really caring how handsfree it is.
Although only the Freestyle pump comes with this additional feature, one can purchase additional accessories for the PIS to pump hands free. Another option is using the ponytail method (my favorite!) as detailed here.
The Medela Freestyle includes an easy-to-read LCD screen which actually lights up and displays the vacuum level, the duration of pumping, and the battery status.
A big difference in the make of both pumps is how you control the suction strength. In the similarity section, I wrote how each pump employs the use of Medela’s two phase letdown technology. When vacuum is increased, suction level is increased and speed is decreased, and when vacuum is decreased, suction level is decreased and speed is increased. To change the strength of the vacuum using the Medela Pump in Style, one needs to turn a dial. However, in the Freestyle, all one needs to do is press the + or – button to decrease or increase the vacuum level. I don’t really think that one is easier than the other; it’s more a matter of personal preference.
Price: Prices fluctuate, but you may end up paying $100 more for a Freestyle over a Pump in Style, not an insignificant amount.
Some mothers felt that the suction strength of the Medela Pump in Style was stronger than the Freestyle’s suction level. This could be just due to the fact that the Freestyle is supposed to be more comfortable than the Pump in Style and so it just feels that way, or it could be true.
Batteries: When using batteries, the Medela Pump in Style runs on 8 AA batteries and the Medela Freestyle has a built in rechargeable battery with a battery life of up to three hours. Some prefer having batteries on hand, while others prefer not having to replace batteries, and they’re better able to be on top of recharging the Freestyle battery. I’m the former, you may be the latter!
The Freestyle includes two sizes of Breast Shields (24 mm and 27 mm), only the Medela Pump in Style with Metro Bag includes two sizes, the others include just the 24″. Additional sizes can easily be ordered online. Medela has found that many mothers do not fit the standard size breast shield. At times the pump may not work as efficiently or be comfortable for the mother who is pumping simply due to the fact that the breast shield wasn’t the right size; so coming with two sizes is really a big plus.
To summarize, while the Medela Pump in Style might be cheaper and perhaps slightly more efficient, the Medela Freestyle is much smaller, lighter, has a built-in rechargeable battery, and includes a built-in hands free mechanism.