Medela Harmony with Flex Review
Pros: Small, lightweight, portable, comfortable, efficient, easy to use, quiet
Cons: Single breast pump, hand-operated, not for frequent use
Our Analysis and Test Results
Medela originally started in Zug, Switzerland. They now sell their breast pumps and accessories in over 90 countries. They are a family run business with an emphasis on helping women breastfeed their children. They started a program called the "Corporate Lactation Program" to educate companies to support women breastfeeding and pumping at work. They have been selling pumps in the US for over 30 years and have become a go-to brand for many.
There is much to like about this hand-held portable pump that allows for various hand positions to help prevent hand fatigue.
This manual pump offers impressive efficiency, with our tester pumping about 2 ounces every 9 minutes on average. It has a two-phase design that stimulates let down (when your milk begins to flow) using a shorter side that creates a faster, shorter sucking cycle, similar to that of a hungry baby, before switching to the longer lever to create a slower, longer, and stronger pull on your breast to express the majority of your milk. You do have to empty one breast at a time, which takes a bit longer, but with Medela's two-phase pumping design, we feel it was more than capable of consistently producing favorable results. We found this pump to work quickly and efficiently on each breast without too much fatigue from the manual operation.
This pump allows you to determine exactly what speed and suction level are the most comfortable. It is more comfortable than the other manual options we've tested, with no harsh, sharp tugging sensation. The two-phase expression allows for a more gentle start, and you can choose when to begin the longer, harder suction. It also has a soft and comfortable flange that hugs the breast, which is nicer than the harder plastic style on some of the competition.
Ease of Use
This pump is simple to set up and to use. It comes with a full set of directions, but it is somewhat intuitive. The pump comes with two bottles, two lids, a bottle stand, the adapter, breast flange, and lever to pump.
Portability is one of the many positive attributes of a small, manual pump. This pump fits in a carry-on or personal bag and is super discrete thanks to the small size and near-silent operation. It can be nice to easily empty your breast in the cramped quarters of a flight without any setup or noise. You don't have to worry about plugs or battery packs, or malfunctions. Some testers who flew with this pump were so impressed they said they wouldn't take another flight without it.
This pump is relatively easy to take apart and clean, though we found the center aspect of the pump lever adapter somewhat challenging. Still, this didn't affect the milk as it doesn't come into contact with the milk. For travel, we'd suggest a gallon ziplock bag for pump storage to keep things clean.
This pump makes absolutely no noise. While most manual pumps are quiet, this one's lever seems to offer a little "extra" for silence. The lever has a soft rubber cover that makes pumping a little easier on your hand and increases quietness, unlike other hand pumps that often make a clicking sound.
A couple of drawbacks with this hand pump are that it does not come with a tote bag or an insulated bag for the expressed milk. This means you need to purchase one or have a refrigerator if you don't plan on using the expressed milk within six hours, which is the recommended time frame before milk goes bad. Please refer to our article Best Practices For Handling Breast Milk for more on this topic.
This manual pump is a single pump, meaning you can only empty one breast at a time, and your hand is the motor, so it can take time and be taxing after a while. If you have any hand limitation or suffer from carpal tunnel, it probably isn't a good solution for you. Last, while it did pump fairly efficiently, it can't compete with an electric pump, and some moms might find it doesn't do the job as well, leaving them with less expressed milk or full breasts when their hand is tired.
The Medela Harmony Manual is small, lightweight, easy to use, quiet, efficient, comfortable, and hygienic. However, our testers don't think it is the best solution for those who need to pump both breasts multiple times a day regularly, as it will take too long and hand fatigue will be a real problem. It's not going to be the answer for every mom, but it could be an affordable and convenient solution for those who travel or only need to pump occasionally. It could also be a nice companion to a double electric pump for moms that need something small for travel or to relieve unexpected engorgement when there isn't enough time for a full pumping session with an electric pump.
— Juliet Spurrier, MD and Abriah Wofford