One product that I have been wanting to try with baby #3 (that was introduced since I weaned my last baby) is the Freemie.
The Freemie is a completely different kind of milk collection system. Most pumping systems have three major parts – a breast shield that fits over your nipple, a pumping mechanism (breast shield body, membrane/valve, etc.), and then a bottle that the milk is collected in. The Freemie has the same three things, but instead of being pumped into a bottle, the milk flows into a collection cup that surrounds the breast shields and pumping mechanism. The collection cups are compatible with the Medela Pump in Style and quite a few other pumps (here is a full list).
One of the great things about the Freemie is that you don’t need a hands-free pumping bra – you can just put the collection cups in your bra and you’re all set.
However …. the Freemie manufacturer advertises that you can “pump anywhere, in front of anyone” with your shirt on using these cups. In fact, the box shows a woman chopping vegetables while pumping (well, presumably she’s pumping – I’m not sure why else there would have been a lady chopping vegetables on a box of pumping equipment).
I am not sure that it is as easy and freewheeling as they make it sound. First, in terms of pumping in front of anyone – yes, you can definitely do that. Just to be clear, though, it’s not like no one will know what you are doing/you could do this at your desk or something undetected. First, the collection cups are rather large, so it’s obvious that you’ve stuffed your bra with something. Additionally, you still have to actually be attached to the pump itself, which means that you have tubing coming out of the top of the collection cups, and you’d have to thread that back down through your bra so that it can be connected to the pump from the bottom of your shirt. And, of course, there is still the sound of the pump.
I used the Freemie system for a day when I was working from home. I wanted to love them, but to be honest, I didn’t really like them, for the following reasons:
- Normally, I refrigerate my pump parts in between pumping sessions and only wash them at the end of the day. With these, I really think you’d have to wash everything after every use because you have to remove the collection cups to get the milk out, and I ended up needing to touch the valve and the “inside stuff” of the pump when doing that. You don’t generally need to do that with traditional pumping systems; you can just disconnect the tubing, remove the bottle, and throw it in a ziploc bag in the fridge.
- I found these a bit painful, as if the flanges were too small. I normally use a 27mm flange, and I used the 28mm that came with the Freemie (it comes with a 25mm and a 28mm), but by the end of the day there was definitely some irritation.
- I was pretty concerned about spilling the milk at three different points each time I’d finished pumping – when I disconnected the tubing from the collection cup, when I opened the collection cup, and when I poured the milk into a bottle. It was sort of stressful, and this isn’t an issue with traditional pumping systems.
- It’s not compatible with the Medela Freestyle, which I prefer over the Pump in Style because I don’t have to deal with plugging the pump into an outlet.
To be fair, it may also be that I am having a hard time adjusting to the completely different way that these work after pumping “the old way” for 3 (non-consecutive) years now.
Here are some photos of my collection cups after pumping, which might help you visualize how it works:
In summary, I love the idea, and I can see how other people might really like it – not having to deal with a hands-free bra is great! However, I am not sure that I’ll be using mine again.