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Friday, December 7, 2012

Road Testing the Swing Maxi and Thoughts on Medela's Non-repair Policy

In early December, Mamaway Philippines invited me to share my experiences as a working and breastfeeding mom in their crash course for moms - "What to Expect at the Hospital and Beyond" which Mamaway co-organized with Medela Moms.  E was sick so I had to leave him home while I attended the event.

Since I wasn't going to bring E, I decided to take this opportunity to road test the new Swing Maxi.  Medela Moms were also collecting milk for UP-PGH's Foster Milk Program.  Note that the pump horns at Medela House are cleaned but not sterilized.  However, the milk is going to be pasterized at the UP-PGH Milk Bank so no issue with storing the milk.

The Medela Swing Maxi is the updated and lighter replacement to Medela's very popular PISA pump.  It is similar to the Swing Pump - but it is for dual pumping.  My very first pump was a Medela Swing pump but I decided to sell it and switched to a dual pump. The Swing Maxi is a definite improvement over the PISA by being more portable, lighter and easier to carry around.

The MedelaMoms share that the Swing Maxi has all the fantastic features of the PISA - strong suction, 2-phase expression technology, double pumping option, durability as it is meant to be heavy duty.   The MedelaMoms assure the moms that even if you use the Swing Maxi every 2 hours, round the clock ( if you are exclusively pumping or increasing milk supply), it will not conk out on you.
The main come-on for me would be the price - at P13,500, it is the most affordable pump among Medela's line of electric pumps that come with the 2-phase expression technology.  I currently use the Freestyle (Review of the Freestyle here) and here are advantages that I feel the Freestyle has over the Swing Maxi:
  1. Size. From the photo, you can see that the Freestyle is a bit smaller than the Swing Maxi. 
  2. Digital Timer/Display. This is the major advantage that the Freestyle has over the Swing Maxi.  Since the Freestyle has a built-in timer, once I hook myself up, I forget that I am pumping, I am free to focus on other things.  With the Swing  Maxi, you have to keep your eye on the time to make sure that you don't over-pump.  You can also see the level of suction/power you are currently on with the Freestyle.  With the Swing Maxi, since there is no digital display, so you have to go by feel on how strong you have adjusted the suction/power. 
  3. Accessories. The Freestyle comes with carry tote, cooler bag with 2 extra bottles plus freezing element.  None is included with the Swing Maxi. 
  4. Memory. On the Freestyle, you can program your last pump setting.  However, this is something that I don't really use so I don't really consider this as an advantage over the Swing Maxi.
  5. Batteries. The Freestyle comes with rechargeable batteries.  The Swing Maxi can be powered by 6 AAA batteries.  You can purchase rechargeable AAA batteries if you find yourself relying on the battery power of your Swing Maxi to prevent expense/wastage. 
That said, I'm happy that Medela Switzerland has come up with a cheaper and more affordable pump with the dual-phase expression technology.  So if you have the budget, go for the Freestyle but otherwise, the Swing Maxi is good enough.  The price of the Swing Maxi is equivalent to about 2.5 months of formula milk purchases for a newborn (at P5,000 per month).

I'd also like to share the MedelaMoms' new policy on repairing Medela pumps.  This is an unpopular policy but their Swiss principals asked them to implement this.
You can read a discussion about this matter on my Facebook page.   The MedelaMoms clarified that most of the pumps that have problems are US-bought pumps.  Apparently, the Medela US operates differently from their mother company and manufactures their products based on different specifications from the products of Medela Switzerland.  Plus, they come up with products that are not approved by the mother company.

According to the MedelaMoms, they will continue to do maintenance checks on purchased elsewhere.  However, if there is a performance issue (e.g. pressure is below normal), they will no longer open the pump to check the motor.
Medela has released a new non-repair policy. We can no longer open the motor of a pump that is not performing well. We are limited to checking whether or not your pump's pressure is still okay. Replacements and/or servicing will have to be claimed from source of pump. We will however continue servicing warranty requests as well as maintenance requests for pumps purchased from us. We have been given permission for this. Our deepest apologies but our hands are tied. The policy has been in effect since June 2012 and the principal has finally implemented strictly.
As consumers, we always want to purchase the cheapest products available.  However, I do believe that we also have to be aware of the risks of buying a cheaper product - with servicing options, performance, etc. I have reminded the MedelaMoms of consumers' preference for affordable products and they confirmed that they have consistently asked their principal to lower their prices - to make them more competitive with the US products.  The MedelaMoms also shared that other benefits from buying from them include excellent after sales service and loyalty perks such as free seminars.

In the end, it is the consumer's choice as to where s/he wants to purchase the pump.  Medela is, after all, a business and not a charity so we cannot expect them to offer cheaper pumps at lesser profits.   I think what is important is for the consumer to enter into a transaction with eyes open wide and understand the trade off for the lower priced US-bought pumps.

Update: 8 February 2013
Abie shared a place where you can have your Medela pumps repaired.  Try visiting Love Electronics.  If your pumps are out of warranty or not covered by warranty anyway, there's no harm in trying to have it repaired!  Click the link to find the list of branches of Love Electronics.

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