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Medela Harmony Manual Review

Back view showing the operating lever  and sitting in the included bottle stand.
Top Pick Award
Price:   $42.00 List | $27.50 at Amazon - 35% off
Pros:  small, lightweight, portable, comfortable, efficient, easy to use, quiet
Cons:  single breast pump, hand operated, not for frequent use
Bottom line:  A great pump for traveling moms or moms who don't plan on pumping often
Editors' Rating:   
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Manufacturer:   Medela

The Skinny

The Medela Harmony Manual breast pump gives traveling and stay at home moms something they cannot find with a double electric pump: portability. This simple yet efficient pump offers an affordable option to the occasional pumper and would also make a great supplement to a double electric pump as it is much more travel-friendly.


RELATED REVIEW: The Best Breast Pump Review


Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results

Review by:
Lindsay Smith
Review Editor
BabyGearLab

Last Updated:
Tuesday
March 4, 2014

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Medela is a company originally started in Zug, Switzerland. They now are very popular in many places, selling their breast pumps and accessories in over 90 countries. They are a family run business with an emphasis on helping women breast feed their children. They even started a program called the "Corporate Lactation Program" in which they educate companies to support women breastfeeding and pumping at work. They have been selling pumps in the US for over 30 years now and have become a go-to brand for many women. The manual pump they created was one of our favorites, even compared to many of the electric pumps we tested. We even gave it our Top Pick Award for the traveling mom!

Performance Comparison



Efficiency


Pushing the top portion of the lever engages the first part of the "two-phase" expression  which encourages your milk to begin flowing.
Pushing the top portion of the lever engages the first part of the "two-phase" expression, which encourages your milk to begin flowing.
We scored this pump at a 7/10 for efficiency. It scored right below the Spectra S1, our Editors' Choice Award winner and the Medela in Style Advanced, our Best Value Award winner. Although a manual pump, which often doesn't perform as well as an electric pump, we were still able to score this pump higher in efficiency due to its superior design. You do have to empty one breast at a time which does take a bit longer, but with Medela's two-phase pumping design, we felt it was more than capable of consistently producing favorable results. The two-phase design simply means that to stimulate let down (when your milk begins to flow) you begin pumping with the shorter side of the pump lever which creates a faster, shorter sucking cycle, similar to that of a hungry baby. Once milk starts to flow, you switch to the longer lever on the opposing side which creates a slower, longer and stronger pull on your breast to express the majority of your milk. We found this pump to work quickly and efficiently on each breast without too much fatigue from operating it manually.

Comfort


This pump scored the highest for comfort out of any of the pumps we tested, snagging a perfect 10/10. It was closely followed by the Spectra S1 in the same category. We scored this pump so high due to its "double phase expression" mode and the ability to operate it yourself and determine exactly what speed and suction level were most comfortable. As far as the manual pumps go, it is much more comfortable than the others we tested, the Avent Natural Comfort Manual and the Lansinoh Comfort Express Manual, the main reason being that the other two immediately tug on your breast in a sharp, harsh manner in order to express your milk. With the two-phase expression the Medela offers, it allows for a more gentle start and you can choose when to begin the longer, harder suction and still maintain a comfortable level for you.

Ease of Use


The Harmony  shown disassembled here  was actually one of the easiest pumps to set up and use.
The Harmony, shown disassembled here, was actually one of the easiest pumps to set up and use.
This pump is simple to set up and to use. It comes with a full set of directions, but we found they were not necessary. You simply grab a bottle, screw the adapter onto it, pop in the breast flange, connect the expression lever to the top, and you are set to pump. The pump comes with two bottles, each with lids, a bottle stand and then the adapter, breast flange and lever to pump. Some draw backs to this manual pump would be that it is a single pump, meaning you can only empty one breast at a time. Also, your hand is the motor, so it can be a little taxing after a while. Still, it worked efficiently emptying a single breast in about the same time as an electric pump (depending on your milk flow and the quickness of your pumping hand). We scored this pump at a 5/10 for ease of use due to the fact that it can be quite a workout for your hand.


Portability


Ready to go in the OiOi Hobo bag (not included).
Ready to go in the OiOi Hobo bag (not included).
This pump scored an 8/10 for portability right behind the Medela In Style Advanced, which received a perfect 10/10. It tied with the Spectra S1 (our Editors' Choice pick) as well as the AVENT Comfort Double Electric Pump. There are many positive attributes to a small, manual pump such as this, and portability is definitely one of them. The pump comes with 2 bottles with lids, a bottle stand, a breast flange and adapter with an expression lever to top it off.

We really liked this pump for traveling as it was able to fit in a carry-on or personal bag and is super discrete because of it's small size and near-silent operation. In the cramped quarters of a flight, it is nice to be able to simply empty your breast without any set up or noise to disturb your neighbor. You don't have to worry about plugs or battery packs that could malfunction in the car or mid-flight, leaving you with uncomfortably full breasts. Sometimes it can be hard to breast feed in a cramped airplane, especially with a full flight, and possibly having to deal with a fussy or agitated baby. Some of our testers who flew with this product were so impressed they said they wouldn't take another flight without it.

A couple of draw backs include that it does not come with a tote bag or an insulated bag to store your expressed milk. This just means you need to purchase one separately or have a refrigerator near by if you don't plan on using the expressed milk within six hours, which is the recommended time frame before the milk will go bad. Please refer to our article Best Practices For Handling Breast Milk for more on this topic. If there is no refrigerator and you want to keep your milk, make sure you bring an insulated bag with an ice pack and some breast milk recommended storage baggies, bottles or containers to keep your milk in until you get to a refrigerator.

Hygiene


This pump received a 7/10 for hygiene, the same as the AVENT Comfort Double Electric. It was relatively easy to take apart and clean. We did find the center aspect of the pump lever adapter to be a bit difficult to clean thoroughly. Still, this did not seem to effect the cleanliness of expressed milk as it does not come into contact with the milk at any point. For traveling, we'd recommend bringing along a gallon ziplock bag to store your pump in before and after pumping.

Acoustics


Easy and quiet squeeze and release operation.
Easy and quiet squeeze and release operation.
This pump received our highest score for acoustics, tying with the Spectra S1. Although this pump makes absolutely no noise, while the Spectra has a motor and makes a slight noise, we felt they were still the best out of all the other comparable pumps we tested. Of course, most manual pumps are quiet, but this one's pumping lever seemed to offer a little "extra" in the area of a quiet pump. The lever has a nice, soft rubber cover that made pumping a little easier on your hand and contributed to it's quietness. The other two manual pumps we tested had pumping levers made of hard plastic which didn't offer the soft sounds of this pump, they almost made a clicking noise every time your hand would press down. We liked having a smooth flow of motion with a sturdy, soft lever to keep the noise to almost nothing!


Best Application


Although we love this pump, it's still not really meant for an everyday pumper. We wouldn't even recommend it to a frequent pumper. If you are pumping more than once a week, it would be ideal to have a double electric pump, if for nothing else, but to save your hand muscles the trouble! Also the time involved with emptying each breast separately would be cumbersome if pumping often.

We recommend this pump for two different types of moms. Our biggest recommendation for this pump would be for the traveling mom. Either in combination with a double electric pump, or separately if you are not a frequent pumper. If you plan on taking a few trips, especially those that require a flight, this pump is a life saver. It can fit easily into a carry on or personal bag. Its small size makes it easy and discrete if you need to express milk during a packed flight. We found this to be crucial as not all babies will cooperate to nurse on take off and landing as recommended. We hope your baby does, but if not, this pump will be a godsend!

Once on vacation there are two options. If you plan on being gone for more than a week, especially if your baby is not with you, check your double electric pump and bring it with you. However, if you are planning on vacationing with your baby and only pumping for date nights or outings, we think this pump would suit you just fine.

The second kind of mom this pump would work for is a stay at home mom who is only planning on pumping for the occasional date night or errand running. It would cover your baby's needs for short times away on a very occasional basis. Again, we only recommended this pump to moms who plan on pumping no more than once a week.

Value


This pump retails for $42.00. It's not the most expensive manual pump on the market and is well worth the investment in our opinion, offering more than we even thought was possible. Overall, we were pleasantly surprised by the value of this little pump.


Conclusion


The Medela Harmony Manual is small, light, easy to use, quiet, efficient, comfortable and hygienic. It's not going to be the answer for every mom, but it could be an affordable and convenient solution to those who are traveling or only need to pump on occasion. It would also be a nice companion to a double electric pump for moms that just need something small to travel with. With all the stress that comes with traveling with an infant, we say go ahead and put your mind at ease and toss this pump in your purse for the flight.

Video


Lindsay Smith and Curtis Smith

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