I can still hear that whirring sound sometimes if I think about it… And Simon and Garfunkel singing “hello darkness my old friend…” I pumped for over a year and a half for my first child; my breast pump was constantly with me. I must have spent hours upon hours with this thing – lugging it everywhere, washing parts multiple times a day, measuring milk… and my son’s life would be vastly different without the nourishment I provided by pumping. Get the scoop on a highly experienced mama’s review of the Medela Pump In Style Advanced Double Electric Breast Pump.

Review: Medela PiS Breast Pump - Realsimplemama

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Let me explain a few generic things about pumps first:

  • A pump works as a closed system which attempts to mimic the suction of a baby. None of them will be as quick nor as efficient as a baby, and you may have to pump 1.5-2x to get the equivalent of one of Baby’s feedings.
  • There are single (one boob at a time) or double (both at once) pumps.
  • There are hand/manual pumps (you do all the work yourself) and electric pumps (push a button and wheee).
  • Electric pumps need to be plugged in, so that can limit where you pump; you can buy car adapters and battery packs (this pump has both).
  • There are standards to follow in regards to how long milk can be room temperature, refrigerated, and frozen; this likewise applies to your pump parts, or anything else which has milk on it. Keep this in mind when you’re determining your pumping schedule – can you wash your parts? Where will you keep the milk you’ve gotten?
the Medela Pump in Style in all its glory

the Medela Pump in Style in all its glory

To people in the know, Medela is arguably the most reliable brand when it comes to all things breastfeeding. It was a no-brainer for me to pick this one from my insurance (thanks Obama!). It is said to be one of the best double electric pumps available to consumers (you can potentially rent hospital-grade pumps from your local Lactation Consultant, but can’t buy them).

the Medela motor with AC power and tubing

the Medela motor with AC power and tubing

The pump itself is essentially a little box with the motor in it; there are two tubes which connect to ports on the motor box, and the other end connects to the bottle set up. The “bottle setup” consists of the bottle screwed into a connector with a membrane and port in it. Then this set of parts is attached to a flange, or breastshield, which is what goes over your nipple. Sounds confusing, but look closely at the photos and it’ll make more sense!

The Pump In Style Advanced takes one of the high quality Medela double electric motors and wraps it in a black tote or backpack. This is great for subtlety, and it also helps you carry all of the other pieces you need. The tote set (what I have) comes with a square cooler bag and a contoured ice pack, so you can fit four of their 5oz bottles inside. And trust me, keeping your milk cool is super important.

Medela pump parts disassembled - from left to right: tubing, connector, breastshield; below, yellow valve, white membrane, 5oz bottle

Medela pump parts disassembled – from left to right: tubing, connector, breastshield; below, yellow valve, white membrane, 5oz bottle

A lot of the parts assembly can be done in advance – this will save you time if you were like me and always in a rush. It also helps if you have multiple sets of the parts, so you do not necessarily have to wash everything after every pumping session. I was able to just throw all of my parts in a bag at the end of the day, and then I washed everything together when I got home.

Another thing that is nice about this pump is that the parts are very easy to find – you can get them online, from your lactation consultant, or even from places like Target!

look! my grocery store had tons of Medela stuff - yay HEB!

look! my grocery store had tons of Medela stuff – yay HEB!

I’ve used quite a few different pumps in my breastfeeding career, and the Pump In Style is by far my favorite. The whole point of pumping is that you can’t be with your baby, you need to make milk for your baby, and you want to get as much as possible; the Pump In Style really helps you do that easily and comfortably. I felt that the pump is well-designed, doesn’t feel cheap and has held up amazingly well against tons of use (including while driving, in a football stadium bathroom, in a middle school storage closet…). I love that pretty much all Medela parts are compatible – for example, all of their milk bottles use the same sized lid. I had to rent a Medela Symphony for a while from my LC, and I didn’t have to buy anything different except the tubing. It makes scrambling for the right valve, or grabbing a lid when you’re half asleep, effortless and mistake-free.

I also have great things to say when it comes to how the product stands with wear-and-tear. In the two years that I used this thing for hours a day, I only had one mishap with the motor. And it turns out that it was user error. I did learn a lot about troubleshooting the unit, what to look for, etc., but I have had no problems with it crapping out on me or not working. (I did have to replace my AC power supply once, and membranes lots of times, but that’s to be expected and I talk more about those below). The tote never tore or ripped, although sometimes it seems like I’ll never get out a milk stain… but such is the life of a lactating woman.

motor closeup - note that the yellow stopper can plug one side so you can pump only one breast

motor closeup – note that the yellow stopper can plug one side so you can pump only one breast

Overall I only have two tiny complaints about the system. Firstly, the white membranes which help keep the system closed are fairly sensitive. They are very thin and flimsy so they can tear easily, and you also have to be careful how you clean them: if you boil them or put them in the microwave steam bag, they will warp. Then they cannot give you the seal that you need for the pump to work – and I still remember the frantic feeling of turning on my pump, and it not having proper suction. Then you have to rush to troubleshoot the whole system; almost always, the culprit was one of those membranes. If nothing else, always check them before you get all set up – and carry extras!

The Medela parts assembled - note the membrane is now in the bottle, closing the system and allowing suction (it closes off the yellow valve)

The Medela parts assembled – note the membrane is now in the bottle, closing the system and allowing suction (it closes off the yellow valve)

Secondly, the breastshields which are included are supposedly the wrong size for most women. I do not know why Medela chooses to send this size instead. Luckily, flanges in different sizes are easily found with your LC or wherever you buy your other breastfeeding and pumping supplies. And I am grateful that my LC anticipated this, and had some for me. It is extremely important that you have flanges at the correct size, not just for your comfort but for efficiently pumping. Nobody has time to waste when it comes to pumping, and nobody wants bruised nipples! Here is Medela’s guide – they have the 24mm breastshields with all of their pumps, I’m a 27mm (and was told most women use this size). However my info could be wrong, and this is a minor setback anyway. 

I strongly recommend that you have a session with your own Lactation consultant once you get the pump, to check all the parts and get a lesson on how to use it. If you’re having to pump, you don’t want to waste any time, and you need to get as much milk as possible!

After using many many pumps over the last few years, I have a soft spot in my heart for my Medela Pump In Style. That bag travelled with me, kept me company when pumping on toilets and in closets, and overall has been incredibly reliable and resilient. I am so grateful to have had it!