If you’re a working mom, a good double electric breast pump is one of your most important investments. It will be the thing that helps your baby continue receiving the benefits of breastmilk and you continue enjoy the breastfeeding relationship you have with your baby even after you go back to work, so you want a pump that is effective, efficient, portable, durable and reliable. Two of the most popular double electric pumps are the Ameda Purely Yours and the Medela Pump in Style.
One of the things I noticed when I was researching which pump to get was that there weren’t a lot of side-by-side comparisons of the two pumps. Because pumps are so expensive, and because they really aren’t the sort of thing you share, most moms have only used one sort of pump. While a lot of the reviews I found were thorough, they were all mostly based on experience with one pump and couldn’t tell me much about what made one pump better than the other.
I’ve been lucky enough to be able to try out both pumps and compare them side-by-side. Below, I’ve broken them down into a handful of categories to compare them in detail.
Effectiveness and Efficiency
In terms of ability to empty the breast, I feel like the Ameda PY and the Medela PIS are fairly evenly matched. Both empty the breast fairly thoroughly and quickly. From this perspective, I can’t tell much of a difference between the two.
The Medela PIS I tried came with the on the go tote, while the Ameda PY came with the carry all.
I love the Medela PIS tote. The straps were just the right length and was easy to carry, which was nice since the mother’s room at work is on the opposite side of the building. The tote was big enough to fit, with room to spare, all of my pumping supplies: the pump itself, flanges, hoses, hands-free bra, wipes, wall adapter, and even the freezer bag. The bag is nice and wide, so I didn’t have to do a lot of digging to find everything. I love that you don’t have to take the pump out of the bag to use it. You just unzip the side panel and plug everything in. I also love the fabric. I’m one of those people who gets weirded out by “wrong” textures or the sound of fabric rubbing on fabric, and I didn’t have many issues with the tote from that standpoint.
I wasn’t as much a fan of the Ameda PY carry all. While it easily fit the basic supplies–pump, flanges, wall adapter, hands-free bra, and wipes–I couldn’t zip the bag if I tried to put the freezer bag in it. I usually just ended up carrying the freezer bag separately, which, if you’ve seen how loaded up I am when I head out the door in the morning, one more bag to carry is not appreciated. Because the bag is tall, I had to dig pretty much every time I needed to find something and had to be pretty particular about how everything went in so that it would be easy to get to the next time I opened the bag. When you add to the tall bag the fact that the straps are very long, it makes for an awkward item to carry. Especially if you are 5’1″. You also don’t have the option to leave the pump in the bag to use it. It has to come out every time, which is annoying when you’re on a time budget. The last complaint is minor, but I hate the fabric. It’s easy to clean, but I also cringe every time I pick up the bag.
For portability, the Medela PIS tote was the clear winner. However, you could probably save money by buying only the Ameda PY pump and finding another bag to carry all your stuff in, taking the obnoxious tote out of the equation entirely.
When it comes to functionality, the two pumps are pretty different. With the Medela PIS, you basically have one option: how much suction you get. The pump automatically has a faster let-down cycle and then a slower cycle that can either start on its own or when you press the let-down button. The Ameda on the other hand has no pre-set cycles. It has separate controls for speed and suction, which you can adjust at any time.
The nice thing about the Medela PIS is that you don’t have to think much about what you’re doing. You just crank the suction and go. Conversely, the Ameda PY gives you a much more customizable experience, so you can better adjust to your own body’s needs. Which one you would prefer really depends on you, because I can easily see the benefits and drawbacks of both.
In other words: how many parts does it have, and how long does it take to take it apart, clean it, and put it back together again.
The Ameda PY is pretty straightforward. There is the pump itself, the wall adapter or batteries, tubing and tube adapter, adapter cap, the flange, diaphragm, and valve. The parts you take apart and put together the most are the flange, diaphragm, valve and adapter cap, since those are the parts that need to be cleaned. Because the Ameda has a closed system (i.e. the diaphragm keeps milk from going into the tubing), you don’t have to clean the tubing every time. Still, it’s a lot to take apart and put back together again. At work, I usually don’t have time to take it all apart, so I just remove the valve and wipe everything else down with my Medela pump wipes.
With the Medela PIS, you can either get the flange as one whole piece with the valves, membranes, and tubing, or you get the breast shield, personal fit connectors, valves, membranes and tubing. Having the whole flange just combines the breast shield and personal fit connectors, which you’d be more likely to use if you needed to use something other than the standard size breast shield. Again, it’s a lot of stuff to take apart and put together, but when I’m at work, I mostly just run water through everything and wipe down what I can reach with the pump wipes. Because the Medela PIS is not a closed system, you also have to clean out the tubing. Having to rinse out the tubing is obnoxious, and while the rest of it is less work, I don’t always feel like it gets as clean since I can’t get into the valve and membrane to clean them as easily as I can on the Ameda PY.
At the end of the day, both have to be taken completely apart, rinsed in hot, soapy water, put in the Medela microsteam bags. The flanges for the Ameda PY fit better on my drying rack, but that’s a fairly minor thing.
In the end, they both take about the same amount of time to clean, but I feel like the Ameda is probably a little more hygienic when you have to do quick cleanings at work. I’ve heard some people say they just put their used flanges in ziploc bags in the fridge between uses at work so they worry less about bacteria and that would probably resolve the hygiene issue. This one probably depends on your degree of germ phobia.
Around the House
I put this in as a special category since, even though I do pump at work every day, I also routinely pump at home, which is a little different than pumping at work. At home, I actually sort of prefer my Ameda PY. Because you can take the Ameda PY pump out of the bag, it’s light and takes up very little space, which makes it easy to move from room to room or to fit onto a small side table. You pretty much always have to have the huge bag with you with the Medela PIS, and I hate having to lug the entire thing from room to room, sometimes have a hard time figuring out where to put it, and have knocked things over with it. (Like my husband’s big, expensive laptop. Oops.)
Another thing is that you can put the batteries directly into the pump with the Ameda PY. The Medela PIS has a battery pack thing that attaches into the pump with a cord. Granted, you’re already carrying the big, huge bag, so the battery pack really doesn’t seem like a lot of extra, especially since you can just tuck it into the little pocket on the bag, but the whole point is: the Medela PIS is hard to use if you want to move from room to room. I can pick up my Ameda PY and go from the couch to the computer to sitting on the floor playing with the baby to doing dishes and making dinner in the kitchen without too much coordination. It’s the difference between carrying a purse and a suitcase.
The Medela PIS with the on the go tote retails somewhere between $220 and $300. The Ameda PY with the carry all usually retails somewhere between $180 and $250. When you consider that the yield is ultimately about the same, and the pumps are both, in my opinion, well-made and sturdy, the Ameda is the better deal. When you further consider that you can skip the carry all and just get the pump itself for around $130 and get a different bag to carry everything in, you can actually probably get everything for even cheaper and skip the worst part of the Ameda PY, which is the bag it comes with.
Of course, I do think that there are nice details about the Medela PIS which clearly have working moms in mind (like the really nice bag) that make the Medela PIS worth the extra money if you can afford it and if that’s the sort of thing you value.
Here are some other quick thoughts I have on the Medela PIS vs. the Ameda:
- The Medela PIS is much quieter than the Ameda PY. The Ameda PY is so loud, I have a hard time doing phone calls while I’m pumping, which can be an issue if I’m working from home or trying to make personal calls during my pump break.
- You can see through the plastic on the flanges more easily with the Medela PIS than with the Ameda PY, which means it’s easier to tell when you’re getting letdown.
- I feel like I get a better fit with the Medela PIS flanges. With the Ameda PY, I often leak milk out the bottom of the flange, which is so annoying. I don’t have this problem with the Medela PIS.
- It’s much easier to get spare parts for the Medela. Medela products are carried pretty much everywhere: Target, BRU, etc. I was overjoyed when I found the Ameda parts in the shop attached to my LC’s office. With an Amazon prime account, this matters less, but if you don’t have Amazon prime, if you ever need to replace parts quickly, I’d go with the Medela PIS.
- You can fit more storage bottles into the Ameda freezer bag than you can into the Medela freezer bag. The Medela fits 4 5oz. bottles, whereas the Ameda fits 6 4 oz. bottles. It’s nice to have those extra bottles on hand.
- That being said, I like the Medela storage bottles better. The Ameda bottles have two parts to the lids, and I’m always dropping the inside parts and having to wipe them off again.
- Another thing, I’m always knocking the valves off the Ameda PY into the storage bottles. It’s a total pain to have to fish them out, and I feel like it risks contaminating the milk and losing milk when it comes out with the valve. (Every drop counts!)
- I like that the Ameda PY has little cup holders that the bottles with the flange attached can sit in. This is nice both when I’m getting ready to pump and when I’m done and want a “safe” place to put my milk bottles.
In the end, both do roughly the same job. I think the Medela PIS is perhaps a little more elegant than the Ameda PY, but you pay for that. The Medela Pump in Style is really the ideal pump for a busy working mom who doesn’t have time to fuss with the settings on the pump, digging through her bag, or getting her pumping battlestation set up. The Ameda Purely Yours gives you a lot of bang for your buck, though. It has a more customizable pumping experience, is more hygienic for frequent pumpers if you don’t want to sterilize everything with every single use, and is definitely easier to move around when you’re at home. The Ameda PY seems like it would be a great pump for WAHMs or SAHMs who exclusively pump or pump regularly (maybe kids go to daycare while you work, etc.), and could also easily be made a better pump for work if you use a different bag to carry it in.
I liked both pumps, and obviously both could be used for home and work. I think it really depends on your priorities, your budget, your premium on convenience and hygiene, and where you’re going to spend the most time pumping. If you’re looking to purchase a pump, I hope you found this review to be insightful and helpful in making the decision that’s right for you.