Friday, June 21, 2013

Review of Ameda & Medela breast pumps

Until recently, I've been using an Ameda Purely Yours double electric breast pump. It's an old hand-me-down pump from a friend, loaned to my sister for a while, and then mailed back to me. Despite its age, it still performs perfectly.

I have the no-frills pump only version that retails for around $160. You can also buy the pump with a backpack or carryall; both come with lots of accessories. A One-Hand Breast Pump adapter (around $20) lets you turn the pump into a hand pump.

The Ameda Purely Yours pump runs on AC power and does not have battery backup. You can adjust both the suction and the cycle frequency. The cycle frequency can be set at 30, 40, 50, or 60 cycles per minute. (Cycle frequency, or how many times the machine pumps per minute, turns out to be crucial in expressing milk efficiently. More on this later.)

The Ameda breast pump has a sealed system. It has a silicone diaphragm that slips inside the top of the flange part. This means that no liquids, mold spores, or bacteria can get from the pump into the tubing/motor or vice-versa.

You can unplug one of the tubes and pump just one breast at a time. I sometimes did this during morning pumping sessions when Ivy is nursing on the other side. I now double pump right before I go to bed.

The Ameda pump has very few parts and is easy to clean: silicone diphraghm, pump flange, valve, and bottle. You can machine wash the flange and bottle. I usually hand wash the valves.

One of the pump flanges started to crack last month. Not bad considering many, many years of use.

Pros of the Ameda Purely Yours:
  • Reliable design that lasts for many years (my own anecdotal experience and from talking with other women who've used it)
  • Easy to clean with few parts
  • Sealed, hygenic design to prevent contamination
  • Could be a multi-user pump (not FDA-approved for this purpose, but I would be comfortable doing so)

  • Cycle frequency, even at the highest setting, is fairly low

After Ivy was born, I took advantage of the new health insurance regulations that mandate breast pump coverage. I had no choice about which model or brand I received. I tried to get a Hygeia EnJoye ($239 and up), since I've heard such good things about them (very durable, FDA-approved for multiple users) but had no luck despite many phone calls to my insurance company.

I ended up receiving a Medela Personal Double Pump. It's similar to the Medela Pump In Style Advanced ($239 and up), except you can adjust the suction but not the cycle frequency. (FYI, you can't find the Personal Double Pump on the Medela website. It's sold only through medical supply companies, usually via health insurance plans. There's also an "Advanced" model of this pump that lets you select the cycle frequency.)

I tried to find a retail price for this specific pump, but had no luck. It's only available through medical supply companies and not sold directly to consumers. I've seen some listed on Ebay for around $150.

The Medela pump has slightly more parts than the Ameda, but it's still fairly simple to clean (unlike the Avent Isis manual pump, which I tried once. It had about 200* different small parts and was its own jigsaw puzzle.)

When I started using the Medela Personal Double Pump, I immediately noticed that I could pump super quickly and express a lot more volume during each session. Was it the vacuum pressure? The cycle frequency? The way a Medela pumps compared to an Ameda? I did some experimentation and concluded that it boiled down to cycle frequency.

The Medela Personal Double Pump comes pre-set at approximately 75 cycles/minute (by my highly scientific method of counting while watching a clock!). I called Medela to confirm cycle frequency, but they were unable to quote me an exact number. Ameda's customer service confirmed that cycle frequencies are 30, 40, 50, and 60 cycles/minute. I'd been pumping at 50 cycles/minute with the Ameda and hadn't thought of adjusting cycle frequency.

FYI: the Pump In Style Advance model offers a two-stage pumping action. The first stage has a range of 50-200 mmHg and 120 cycles/minute, then the second stage has 100-250 mmHg and 54-78 cycles/minute.

The Medela pumps are not sealed systems, so any number of fluids or bacteria can travel through the tubing and into the motor...and then back out into your breastmilk. This is the biggest drawback to any Medela pump. I'm still using it more than the Ameda because the higher cycle frequency is so much more effective at getting my milk to let down. But if I had a pump that offered both a sealed system AND higher cycle frequency, I'd jump on it.

Pros of the Medela Personal Double Pump:
  • Motor and plug come in a carrying case
  • Higher cycle frequency than the Ameda (75 cycles/minute); more efficient at expressing milk

  • Not a sealed system; potential for contamination via tubing and motor
  • Not suitable for mulitple users
  • Cannot adjust cycle frequency, only vacuum pressure

Overall, I don't have a clear preference for one over the other. I definitely like a faster cycle frequency and wish the Ameda offered a higher range. On the other hand, I really dislike that Medela's pumps are not sealed. Either of these will do the job, so if your insurance only provides one or the other, you will be fine. But I'm still on the search for a pump that gives me both higher cycle frequencies AND the assurance that my milk will not be contaminated. Any recommendations?

* slight exaggeration

Disclosure: I was not paid to write this review, and I did not receive either of these pumps as review items. The Ameda was a hand-me-down and the Medela was provide through my insurance company. 


  1. I got the Ameda pump through my insurance. It has been fine. I got an accessory pack that let me pump straight into freezer bags, which was great for building up a freezer stash before I went back to work. I also used them when I first started back to work. Now I pump straight into bottles.

  2. Rixa - did you factor in World Health Organization compliance? IIRC, Ameda is WHO compliant (they were not compliant but recently got that back) while Medela is not... something else to factor in, if someone is concerned about that from an ethical stand point.

    1. I didn't in this review, but yes, that's certainly an important consideration.

  3. I got an enjoye for $180 on amazon when my second Medela pisa died in under a year.

    I LOVE it. Speed and suction are controlled individually. The valves are dishwasher safe - no flimsy slips of plastic to worry about ripping. The horns, shields, and hoses are interchangeable with the medala ones, if you have them, so you can use those as alternates/backups. (I kept a spare set in my desk at work for when I would forget to bring some vital part!). They fit standard and wide mouth bottles. The diaphragm is easy to replace - in fact they recommend it be done every 6mo or so... Just unscrew the quarter sized disk, and screw anew one in place.

    Hygiea has a 3 year warranty, while medela has a one year.

    Plus, they follow the WHO code regulations, and medela doesn't.

    I also found that my hygiea pump was much less painful, and more productive... I went from maybe 4oz a session off my less productive side to 8-10 oz.

    1. Elaine, I've heard from many people that their Pump In Styles died within a year. They definitely don't have a great reputation for durability.

      I'm going to contact Hygiea and ask them more about their pumps.

    2. I was just wondering if you ever had a chance to talk to Hygiea about their pumps or found any more reviews? I can get either a Madela or a Hygeia at two different med supply companies covered my insurance. The reviews I've read so far have my leaning toward Hygeiea even though everyone I know has used Madela.

    3. Jackie,

      The family I'm donating to lent me their Hygeia EnJoye. The insurance-supplied Hygeias are almost identical to the EnJoye, except they don't have internal batteries or a button that plays your baby's recorded cries. I'd definitely choose the Hygeia over the Medela. It has a sealed system, which is a huge factor for me in choosing a pump. Medelas also have a reputation for failing after about 12 months (due to one of the internal parts that's meant not to last), while Hygeia re-engineered their pumps (old Medela patents that Hygeia bought) to last longer. The one downfall is that the maximum cycle speed of the Hygeia is only around 60 cycles/second, while the Medela goes up to 78/second.

  4. I just had a baby 4 weeks ago and I am curious as to what the new health insurance regulations are concerning breast pumps. Are they required to provide a breast pump if I request one? I would definitely like to take advantage of that if they are.

    1. With the exception of a few grandfathered plans, health insurance companies are required to cover breast pumps at 100%, since they are considered preventive care. Call your insurance company to verify coverage and see how to go about getting one. Usually you'll work through one of their medical supply companies. You might not get to choose the model. I got what was currently in stock at the medical supply place, which was the Medela.

    2. I was annoyed to find out that the only models my insurance covers are by Playtex, First Years and Evenflo. The reviews are all over the map for all three. Only a handful love them but most rate them a 3 or below. Has anyone here had experience with the Playtex Double Electric, First Years or Evenflo double electric pumps? I was excited about getting a breast pump until I realized how cheap these models are but maybe I'm judging the prematurely?

    3. Playtex doesnt make a pump anymore. (i ordered mine 3 months ago and had pieces broke, called and they informed me they no longer make it), the first years i have used and it has poor suction and the evenflo i am looking into as well

    4. I have the Playtex Embrace Double Electric and have loved it. Sad to hear they don't have a pump anymore. I'm expecting again and just don't know if my Playtex, which I used for my first 2 children, will be up to the task again, Might be looking at the Ameda for this next LO.

  5. I got the Ameda pump through my insurance 5 yrs ago when I had my daughter. Its been in storage for close to 3 yrs now, and I just got it back out to use for my son. One con I would add is the beeping sound that it makes, it gets annoying!

  6. Thanks fior the review, it is clear and helpfull

  7. The ameda purely yours my sister loaned me worked like a dream until it suddenly died. My insurance provided a replacement, but I have had nothing but trouble from it. It's as though the newer models are from a completely different company. They look slightly different than the one pictured here. The new pump is VERY particular about how every part is assembled. I have a fifteen minute break and a half hour break to pump in and I spend more time fiddling with it than I do pumping. I'm highly disappointed. I called their customer service and had the tubing, plastic adapter and teats replaced but this had not helped. If you can't come by an older model (aqua lettering, made in switzerland, NOT blue lettering made in china) I would recommend going with a different company.

    1. I have had the same problem with the newer Ameda pump. I get much more milk using my old Ameda (from my first child) with the aqua lettering than I do with the brand new one I got through insurance for my second baby. They also replaced all of the tubing, phlanges, diaphragms, and valves, when I called to complain but it hasn't made a difference. I am so disappointed with the new version.

  8. I totally agree with Shellz. I had the Ameda Py with my first son 7 years ago and it worked like a dream. Now with my NB I received another paid by insurance and it's nothing like the first! So disappointing and frustrating! I've had multiple parts replaced to no avail. I still experience poor suction on one side with every use. I broke down and rented a pump through the local hospital.

  9. I received a medela advanced from my local WIC office today and it is a sealed system...maybe they updated it? Was previously using the playtex double electric. Absolutely awful. The horns are not customizable and were clearly too small for me. I actually had indents from the design around the nipple area. The suction was poor. I was getting more from the medela hand pump WIC gave me until they had a pump kit available.

  10. According to my lactation consultant at Kaiser (who only rents out Ameda or mostly only Ameda pumps and their "free" pumps through Kaiser insurance is only Ameda brand ones), Evenflo bought Ameda which I believe is why the new Ameda Purely Yours pumps are so much worse than the old model and I'm sure made in Switzerland vs. made in China makes a BIG difference too.


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