I HATE pumping. Hate it. I don't think I have ever met a soul who loves it. (If you're out there.... raise your hand!)
At 4 weeks postpartum, I started pumping once a day using my Advance Double Electric from Medela for “practice bottle” milk, bath/skincare milk, and I’d freeze anything I didn’t end up using. I only pump for 10 minutes (because I hate pumping) and always during my son’s morning nap, which was 1-2 hours after he nursed last.
When I heard about the new PersonalFit Flex Breast Shields by Medela I had to try them. According to their marketing campaigns these new shields to increase comfort and get more milk faster. (Sounds great Medeala! I would love to pump less often and more comfortably.) Their claim is you'll pump 11.8% more milk and have a faster milk ejection than the traditional shields that come with the pumps. The shields are also made to be compatible with any Medela breast pump.
But does it really work?? I am always skeptical when it comes to anything marketed to breastfeeding moms. So I got a set, and decided to try! In this post I go over differences I noticed between both models, things I liked and didn’t like, and how much milk I got using each.
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Disclaimer: As a Lactation Consultant, I can’t have any conflict of interests, meaning I can’t be paid by a company to plug a specific product. I’m going to go over pros and cons and my personal experience with them.
Let's start with the specs from the Medela website so you can get an idea of why they are different.
My Thoughts on the Originals:
I always dread that initial contact with my skin because they’re hard and cold. Some moms warm them up first. I am lazy and don’t do that. Sometimes when using Hands on Pumping the hard edges can feel pinchy. Sometimes I find myself impatiently waiting for my milk to letdown, which doesn't help milk flow. With these shields I always have to keep massaging after a letdown or the milk slows down significantly.
Like almost all moms, I have a “slacker boob” and a “superstar boob”. On an average day, I get around 4oz from my superstar and 2oz from my slacker. 6oz total is still way too much for my baby, who eats 2-3oz per feeding, so I never worry about it. But it’s still kind of a game of mine while pumping, cheering on the slacker boob (Yes, I am a nerd. I embrace it.) This time after 10 minutes of pumping, my total output was 6 ½oz, 3 from the slacker and 3 ½ from the superstar.
My Thoughts on the New Shields:
With the new PersonalFit Flex, the initial contact with my skin was much more pleasant. The curve is more gentle and fit my breast shape and size better. Also, since they’re ovals, I noticed that if the milk flow slowed down, I could reposition them and the milk would start flowing again.
I had to be REALLY careful with positioning. If my nipples weren’t exactly centered, the fit was scrapey and painful. When it was positioned correctly, the suction was much stronger and I noticed that the shields fit much more snugly into the connectors. I had to dial back the suction! Overall the experience was much more tactile. To me, it felt closer to the feel of a baby suckling when I got a letdown. Speaking of letdown, it happened faster this time and I got a total of 3 letdowns in 10 minutes. The milk was definitely still flowing when I stopped pumping, but in the interest of time and measuring output, I stopped after 10.
My total output was 9oz, with 3.75 from the slacker and 5.25 from the superstar. While normally the slacker side slows WAY down after a letdown, the milk flow was much more consistent and my breasts felt equally empty on both sides after pumping.
Downside: By the end of 10 minutes, my nipples were obviously larger than when I first started, and I had to reposition the flanges multiple times if the sides started rubbing against my nipple. That was extremely painful, more so than any rubbing or incorrect positioning with the originals.
The tunnel is not as long either, so by the end, the left nipple (which is longer than my right) was almost touching the flat end of the barrel. If this had happened, I’d probably never use these again.
My Official Stance on These Breast Shields:
So to recap, I personally got more milk in less time with the PersonalFit Flex Shields. They were more comfortable if positioned perfectly and I got more letdowns. If positioned incorrectly, they were much more painful than the originals. I could see this being a great product for the right mom in the right scenario, and absolutely awful for someone else.
After a full work day using the Flex (three 10 minute pumping sessions) I spent 2 days engorged and in pain and got a plugged duct on my slacker side I had to work out. I would never consider using these full time in my case. My plan is to use them when I’m away from my baby for extended periods of time, but stick with the regular ones for every day “dad bottle” use since I do have oversupply. If I just need to pump occasionally and want to do it quickly and efficiently, these would work well for that.
Who may benefit from this product:
*Moms who struggle with pumping output but don’t struggle to nurse at the breast.
*Moms with low supply.
*Moms who don’t have much time to pump or have anxiety over pumping.
*Moms of NICU babies, premies, multiples, or babies with other health conditions who need every drop.
Who may NOT benefit from this product:
*Moms with nipples smaller or larger than the sizes available.
*Moms with elastic nipples that might stretch to the end of the tunnel.
*Moms who won’t pay attention to positioning, since this could lead to trauma and pain.
*Moms with oversupply or overactive letdown. I would REALLY NOT recommend using these full time in those cases. They were just too efficient at emptying every milk duct, and stimulating multiple letdowns. Occasional use or stopping before being empty might work, but also might lead to baby getting only pumped foremilk, which can cause other issues.
Another REALLY IMPORTANT NOTE: It’s probably not a good idea for anyone to use these without having them fitted by a lactation professional. The short tubes, and sensitive positioning can lead to a greater risk of nipple trauma if using a shield that does not fit, and MOST MOMS USE THE WRONG SIZE BREAST SHIELD.
A breast pump fitting and usage session is absolutely something we can help you do (Get Yours in the Form Below!), or see your local LC for a fitting, making sure she watches you use your pump for at least five minutes before she makes any determination about fit.
So there you have it. My honest personal experience with the PersonalFit Flex shields. My breastfeeding experience may be 100% different from yours and your results could be drastically different as well. I have no conflict of interest and didn’t receive any products or compensation for my review.
Have you tried these new Breast Shields? Tell us about your experience in the comments!
Allison Alexander LPN, IBCLC
Kelly Maher, CLC, CLE