It can be tough to choose a breast pump when you’ve never used one before, so it really helps to get input directly from other moms — and that’s why we’re bringing you this Spectra review, courtesy of CorporetteMoms reader Emily. We’re so glad she volunteered to share her experience with other readers!
Features of the Spectra S1 Breast Pump include:
- Hospital performance
- Adjustable suction and cycling in letdown and expression mode
- Includes rechargeable battery, timer, and nightlight
- Only weighs 4 lbs.
The Spectra S1 pump is available at Amazon ($189.99). This post contains affiliate links and CorporetteMoms may earn commissions for purchases made through links in this post. For more details see here. Thank you so much for your support!
When we shared Reader R’s review of the Medela Sonata recently, Emily decided to contribute her own pump review and emailed us to say:
I wanted to offer to write a review of the Spectra S1 breast pump I just ordered, because so many readers seemed to enjoy the recent review of the Medela Symphony. (I know I did.) I just ordered the pump, paid out of my own pocket, because I wasn’t happy with my current pump. … I turn to crowd sourcing (including CorporetteMoms) when I need a new product, and wanted to pay it back.
Thank you so much, Emily, for sharing your Spectra S1 breast pump review!
Emily’s Spectra Review
Short and sweet: This pump promises a Hilton on the moon and delivers. Portable, very quiet, comfortable, and reasonably priced. I doubled the amount of milk I pumped in one week of use. If you want to know more, here’s the full story:
I returned to work when my daughter was 12 weeks old. (She’s now 15 weeks.) She needs 16 ounces a day, plus a little extra to send to daycare. So, call it 18 ounces a day. I planned to pump 4 times a day to replace the 4 feedings I would miss.
I chose the trusty Medela Pump In Style Advanced (PISA) through my insurance plan, because it was what I used with daughter #1 — I already had all the spare parts and accessories, and it worked marginally well enough. I returned to work on the Monday before Thanksgiving, and worked Monday, Tuesday, and a half day Wednesday. Didn’t pump enough to meet her needs, but figured it was early days.
Then the first full week of work — uh-oh. By the end of the day, I had pumped enough for 1.5 bottles. Awesome. Day 2 was a little better: 2 bottles. Day 3: 2 bottles. And this was my pumping routine: Drink a cup of Mothers’ Milk tea, apply warm TheraPearls to encourage letdown, look at pictures of my daughter, listen to the playlist I played in the hospital with her, massage while pumping, hand-express after pumping. What else could I do?!
By day 4, I added “use a hand pump” at the end of feeding, because I was getting more from the hand pump than the PISA. I spoke with a lactation consultant, who advised trying bigger flanges and continued massaging and expression. (I also submitted a question through the Medela website, and got a quick but generic response from a nurse/lactation consultant.) None of these suggestions helped.
Desperate, I searched Amazon and found the Spectra S1 pump. With a little prayer, I paid $164.99 with Prime 2-day shipping. It has 882 reviews, 75% of which are 5-star — they had me at “I pumped 8 ounces today!” I obsessively checked the shipping status. I really hung my hopes on this pump; otherwise, I was going to decimate my frozen milk supply and probably supplement with formula soon.
As of today, I’ve been using the S1 for a week and a half and I LOVE IT. It’s comfortable, quiet, weirdly aesthetically pleasing, and best of all, I’m pumping enough milk to meet demand.
My favorite part is the ability to choose both the cycle and suction. (Cycle seems to be the number of times it suckles per minute, versus suction strength. If I have to complain about the pump, it’s the lack of instructions on what “cycle” means and how changing the cycle will affect your expression.)
The S1 has a rechargeable battery, so it’s portable; the battery on its initial charge lasted 24 pumping sessions of 20–25 minutes each. (No more battery pack that dies after you use it once! No more car adapter!)
There was a learning curve with the pump; I had to read the backflow assembly instructions a few times. It also took a few sessions of changing the cycle and suction strength to find what worked best for me. The pump remembers your settings for next time, or you can change settings while pumping.
The downsides to the pump? The flanges are wide mouth, so you’ll need to pick up adapters if you use narrow neck bottles. Spare parts/accessories are a bit more expensive than their Medela counterparts (both Spectra brand or generic, like Nenesupply and Maymom) and you can’t just run to Target and pick up a spare set if you accidentally leave them at home/work.
Finally (and this is a small consideration), because of its round, ‘60’s mod shape, it’s awkward in my pumping tote bag (a medium canvas tote from Lands’ End, because I’m super stylish like that.)
Bottom line: If you’re in the market for a pump, try the Spectra. It’s reasonably priced if you’re paying out of pocket, and looks like it’s available through health insurance plans. (As I said, I paid out of pocket, but on the Spectra website, they promise they’ll work with your insurance plan if it’s not offered.)
Which pump do (or did) you use, or which ones are you considering? What will your insurance cover, and how much is that a factor in your decision? If you’ve tried the Spectra (S1, S2, etc.), what was your experience with it, and would you recommend it to other moms? (And again, huge thanks to reader Emily for this excellent review!)
Psst: For more information on pumping breast milk, check out our post, Tips for Pumping at the Office: A Working Mom’s Primer, where we’ve gathered all of our best advice and resources on pumping at work, including Pumping at Work 101, How to Pump When You’re Traveling for Work, Breastfeeding and Type A Women, Where to Pump When You Need to Pump in Public Places, The Best Clothes for Pumping: A Poll, and How to Pump in a Different Office (on Corporette) — and more (including some of the best advice from readers). We’ve also got advice about nursing clothes for working moms.
We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.
I have the Spectra S2, and really like it compared to the Medela Freestyle that I used last time around. The S2 sounds very similar to the S1, but I’m not sure it’s hospital grade and it does not have a battery (it’s the one that was available through my insurance so that’s what I went with). In any case, I will second all the pros and cons listed above.
I also wanted to note the good customer service — when my pump randomly stopped working (it just wouldn’t turn on one day despite working perfectly fine the day before), Spectra sent me a new pump, no questions asked, very quickly. During the three or four day interim, I pumped with my old Freestyle, and noticed: (1) I had to pump with a lot more force to get the same amount, resulting in (2) sore breasts, and (3) oh my gosh, the noise — so, so loud. With the S2 I can pump during a conference call with no one hearing anything, but during the three or four days I used the Freestyle, I had numerous people ask about the “odd noise” despite my best efforts to muffle it.
I’ve been pumping for almost five months now (baby is 9.5 months) and I’ve been able to meet his needs with minimal need to supplement from freezer stash or formula (like maybe three or four weeks out of 20ish).
I have both the S1 and S2 – the only difference is that the S1 has a battery.
Just finished a year of pumping with this pump! Love it (well, as much as you can love a pump) and recommend it highly.
I wrote out a long comment that was eaten, so apologies if this posts twice….
I have the Spectra S2, which sounds very similar to the S1, and really like it compared to the Medela Freestyle that I used last time around. Unlike the S1, my S2 does not have a battery, but that hasn’t bothered me since I work from home and just leave it plugged in next to my desk. I second all the pros and cons listed above. In addition, I’ll put in a plug for excellent customer service — Spectra replaced my pump quickly, with no questions asked, when it randomly stopped working (like, one day it worked fine, and the next day it wouldn’t turn on, so weird). During the three or four days it took to get the new pump, I had to use my Freestyle and I noticed: (1) I had to pump with much more force to get the same output, which resulted in (2) sore breasts, and (3) oh my gosh, the noise — so, so loud. With my S2, I can pump during conference calls with no one hearing; in the three or four days I used the Freestyle, I got numerous questions about the “odd sounds” despite my best efforts to muffle the noise. For the quiet alone, I’d choose the S2!
I’ve been pumping now for about 5 months (baby is 9.5 months old) and have been able to maintain supply, except for maybe 3 or 4 weeks that I’ve had to supplement a few ounces of frozen BM or formula.
Have the spectra as well and love it. For those that need to go to a separate room to pump, do you bring your laptop to get work done? I pump 2x/day for 15 minutes each plus a good 5 min each time for set up and breakdown. I used to bring my laptop down to do work but now I don’t because by the time I open my laptop and adjust my screens from my monitor, I feel like it’s pointless. I also think I get less milk when I’m doing work. Am I just being lazy or do most not do work?
When I pumped, I would bring my laptop. But I never had much supply to begin with, so I don’t think I noticed a difference in how much I got. I just couldn’t sit there doing nothing.
Emily S. says
I don’t bring my laptop. I occasionally bring paper work, but I only turn to it when my milk is flowing because I noticed in the past that I wouldn’t get as much if I was working. Instead, I usually read a magazine or book or take a nap.
Arg! Cannot concentrate! We put a bid on a 100 y ear old house that we really like, but it’s being sold “as is” (like they won’t have any more $$) and we have the inspection tomorrow. We know it probably needs a new roof and furnace, but not sure what else lurks below…Just want to know if this is a terrible plan or if we’ve found a great family home for us!
Mama Llama says
Would an unexpected repair of $10k be financially ruinous to you? How about 5 repairs of $2-3k over the course of a year? We have a 90 year old house, and we unexpectedly had to replace an entire bathroom 3 months after we moved in to the tune of $10k. We have also had a lot of small things that are a couple thousand here and a couple thousand there (rotting wood in various places mostly but also plumbing issues) but they really add up. We aren’t handy at all and have busy work/kid schedules so we pay people to do things that maybe others would DIY, so that’s something else to consider.
We have a home that is over 50 years old and I second Mama Llama. Lots of minor repairs that cost several thousand each came up in the first few months, many of which were not found on inspection (or were worse than indicated when we got in to things)–and we had a good inspection. This was on top of the major items that we knew will need to be replaced within 3 years (roof, furnace, and bathrooms and kitchen that hadn’t been updated in 20 years). So we’re looking at spending at least 10% of the cost of our home in the first 5 years for repairs and minor upgrades (like better insulation in the attic) without doing major renovations. I think the typical number is to anticipate 1% of the cost of the home in repairs/maintenance, but that is for a home that starts out in good shape.
With it being sold as-is, be careful about issues. If this home is in the top of your price range and you don’t have a good savings buffer (at least 5% of the home’s value in savings after closing) then be very, very, very careful. Inspections don’t open up walls and a lot of problems can be hiding where you can’t see.
Any comparison between the Spectra S1 and the Medela Symphony? I’ve been using the Symphony at work (really lucky my work provides it for use, just bring your own tubing and parts), and wondering if I’d get more with the Spectra. Has anyone tried both?
lucy stone says
I tried both, and strongly preferred the Spectra. I felt it was much gentler.
I’ve used both and had no preference for one vs. the other, and no difference in output.
Pregnant with #2 says
Thanks for this review – I am so excited to use this pump this time (had a perfectly adequate Medela Freestyle last time but never really got ahead on my stash)! I do have *tons* of Medela bottles though, and hope to use those. Is one adapter brand better than another, in anyone’s experience (I see Maymom, Papablic, TBDL, etc. on Amazon and no real difference)?
lucy stone says
I liked Maymom.
I agree with this review and have found the Spectra to be both comfortable and effective. Only two downsides in my opinion:
1) the bottles that come with the pump that you pump into are crap – don’t actually use them for feeding; and
2) the parts, or even compatible parts, are not readily available in stores. This was a problem when I went on a cross-country business trip and realized on the PLANE that I had forgotten a valve! I figured out a solution involving a Medela valve and a rubber band, but it was far from ideal.
I had both a Medela Pump in Style and a Spectra S2 and I far preferred my Spectra – my body responded to it better. I really like how I could control the speed and the suction independently, which you can’t do on the Medela PISA.
Also I found the Spectra parts on Amazon to be low quality, so I ordered directly from SpectraBabyUSA dot com, which is the official US supplier for Spectra. Pricing was decent and shipping was always fast. I kept a set of spare parts in the office since I used the S2 at work.
Love my spectra! I ended up getting this bag and while its a tight fight, it fits and works great for me: