I went back to work when my son was only 2 months old. I had just managed to get breastfeeding to a level where it was ‘easy’ and I really didn’t want to give it up.
Work was busy and most days I could hardly find time to have lunch. How was I ever going to find the time to pump?
I knew that if I was to succeed, I’ll need a super-powered pump that was fast, convenient and portable.
The Spectra S1 Plus ticked all those boxes (almost).
Why I love my Spectra S1 Plus
Fully adjustable pump settings
When I used the Medela, I was at its mercy. The pump decided how long I was in letdown (massage) mode and it decided when to start expressing whether I was ready to or not.
The Spectra on the other hand, allowed me to choose when to switch from massage mode to expression mode. I could even continue on massage mode throughout the pumping session. In fact, I did. (Read: How I pumped more milk with my Spectra)
In massage mode, the speed is set at 70 cycles/min to imitate a baby’s suckling but you can choose how strong you want the vacuum suction to be (levels 1 to 5).
In expression mode, you can choose between 38 to 54 cycles per minute and 12 suction strengths.
At first, it felt like there were too many options. But I really appreciated that I could experiment with the settings that worked best for me.
Once I found the right settings, I was on auto-pilot.
Pumping at work on my fave settings
Pumping is actually comfortable
I would choose breastfeeding over pumping any day. But the Spectra makes it a lot less detestable to pump.
The massage mode is so gentle! It’s hard to describe but it’s like a fluttery vibration. I start the pump going and work or have lunch at the same time. I can almost forget that the pump is working in the background.
Even with the expression mode, I could dial the suction up or down depending on my comfort levels. I was always worried that high pump suction can cause breast sagging later so being able to choose a lower setting was awesome.
In-built rechargeable battery
I swung between the Spectra S1 and the Spectra S2 multiple times until the last minute. It was a $40 difference (roughly $200 for the S1 and $160 for an S2) which isn’t much at all considering the S1 gives you the freedom of pumping anywhere you want. Don’t ask me why I was being so cheap. I blame it on the sleepless nights.
Thank God I chose the S1 in the end. I remember the days when I had to crawl underneath desks to look for power points and crouch in corners to pump. The S1 with its in-built battery is infinitely better. Trust me, the extra $40 is worth it.
Spectra claims the S1 battery lasts 2 hours of pumping. I pumped 3 times a day, 20 minutes each time (60 minutes in total) and at the end of 2 days, there’s 2 bars left on the battery indicator so I guess that’s about right. I’ve never dared let the battery run lower than that.
The Spectra S1 Plus is a hospital-grade pump. This means that it is really powerful and you can use it for:
- inducing lactation in the first few days post-partum
- building your milk supply, especially if there’s problems with latching
- regular daily pumping
- exclusive pumping
The double pump not only increases your milk yield but also halves the time you need to spend pumping. I was really time-poor, so the time saved was priceless.
Compared to the Medela, the Spectra motor is whisper-quiet. To hammer it home, the Medela is like a Mustang and the Spectra is like a Tesla.
I used to feel really embarrassed because everyone could hear me pumping in my office even with the door closed.
With the Spectra, people have tried to walk in on me multiple times because they didn’t know I was pumping.
The Spectra has a closed system. This means there is a physical barrier between your breastmilk and the pump motor. The barrier prevents any milk from entering into areas that can’t be cleaned. This includes the tubing.
I used to hate how milk would get sucked into the Medela tubing. I not only had to spend more time washing it out but the tubing also took much longer to dry. No such issues with the Spectra thanks to the backflow protector.
A closed system also means you can share your S1 pump (using separate parts of course).
Timer and LED display
The Spectra has a simple but helpful LED display showing you the mode, cycle speed, vacuum strength, battery indicator and most importantly, the length of time you’ve pumped.
With my old pump, I used to forget how long I’ve pumped and timing was all over the place. With the Spectra, I know exactly what I’m doing.
And if you lose track of time or fall asleep, the automatic timer stops the pump at 30 minutes. Nice.
I’ve only used my Spectra in the dark twice. Baby was asleep but I couldn’t pump outside the room. There were no issues with dark-pumping at all since the S1 had a night light. The light was actually bright enough for me to assemble my pump parts in the dark.
Not only that, as testament to how quiet it was, my son didn’t even stir even though I pumped for 20 minutes just beside him.
The flanges, backflow protector, valves etc can be washed and dried easily. You can also wash the tubing but I have not had to.
All these parts are also replaceable. In fact Spectra recommends you replace them every 3 months. They are cheap to replace but I used my parts for 6 months before they started squeaking.
The Spectra body is solid and made of really good quality plastic. After 8 months of heavy use, my pump looked as good as new.
The pump also comes with a 2-year warranty.
Compared to other hospital-grade double-pumps, the Spectra S1 is very reasonably-priced. And it’s so durable that you can either pass it on to a friend or resell it after you’re done.
I didn’t try to sell mine but I’ve heard that the Spectra has a good resale value.
What I don’t like about it
It’s no lightweight
The S1 weighs roughly 2.4 pounds (1.12 kg) because of the inbuilt battery. That’s not heavy at all compared to a baby but when you are lugging it to and from work, it gets tedious after a while.
Shaped like a kettlebell
It measures 7.9 x 7.9 x 6.7 inches and reminds me of a kettlebell. The handle makes it really easy to carry around the house but I found the big round shape annoyingly unwieldy when I had to haul it to work in my tote bag.
Parts not easily available
Medela parts you can buy in any chemist. Spectra parts you can buy on Amazon.
Starting mode doesn’t make sense
I don’t understand this at all but when you turn the S1 on, it starts off on expression mode and picks up where you left off. If you’re not careful, you might shock your nipples by starting on strong suction.
Logically, all pumps should start on massage mode (and most pumps do) but there you go. That’s the Korean Spectra keeping you on your toes.
It works with wide-mouthed bottles
I had tons of narrow-mouthed Medela bottles and not one wide-mouth bottle. But Spectra pump flanges work with wide-mouthed bottles.
The pump comes with two Spectra bottles but they really suck. You can feel how low quality they are just by holding them in your hand.
Solution: I bought these bottle adaptors so I could use my Medela bottles with the Spectra flanges. They don’t fit perfectly but they work well enough that I haven’t had a spill yet.
Turns on easily (why is that bad?)
Unlike me after 2 kids, my Spectra pump turns on with the softest touch. This isn’t an issue except when I have it in my carry bag and and I’m walking down the office corridor. Suddenly I hear a mysterious brrrr… brrrr…brrr from my bag. What do you even say in a situation like that?
‘That’s not a vibrator! It’s a breast pump!’
Everyone smiles knowingly.
Who is the Spectra S1 for?
You would love the S1 if you:
- want a hospital-grade pump for heavy duty use i.e exclusive pumping, power pumping or to build your milk supply
- mostly pump while sitting put. Even though it is portable, the S1 is not a mobile pump you can carry around while doing housework.
- want a value-for-money double-pump with a reasonable price tag
- want to share your pump or resell it later
- drive or are able to transport it to work easily
- like the ability to customize pump settings
Who should not buy a Spectra?
You shouldn’t buy a Spectra if you:
- intend to pump while on-the-move
- take public transport or have to walk a long way to work. Carrying a kettleball in your bag every day is no mean feat.
- want a light-weight pump
- only want to pump once in a while
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the difference between the Spectra S1 and S2?
The main difference between the S1 and S2 is that the S1 has an in-built battery while the S2 needs to be plugged in to be turned on.
The S1 is a tad bit heavier than the S2 – 2.4 pounds vs 2.2 pounds.
The S1 is pastel blue in color while the S2 is pastel pink.
And that’s it. They are exactly the same otherwise.
Is Spectra S1 or S2 better?
For an extra $40 (approx), the S1 is infinitely better and more worth it. I can’t count the times I’ve thanked my lucky stars that I didn’t need a power point to pump.
Can you single pump with the Spectra S1?
Yes, if you want to single pump, put the attached cap on the second air port before turning the pump on.
Is the Spectra S1 covered by insurance?
It depends on your insurer. In general, yes it is.
How does the Spectra S1 compare to other hospital-grade double pumps?
The Symphony is roughly 10 times more expensive than the Spectra S1. It’s a great pump but most moms rent the Symphony rather than buy it.
I don’t know too much about the Ameda except its again roughly 10 times more expensive than the Spectra. It comes with a stand and is not in the least bit portable.
Minbie Hospital Grade Double Breast Pump
This pump is similar to the Spectra. It has a more streamlined shape but is slightly heavier (5.13 pounds). It’s only 1.5 times more expensive.
The other popular double-pumps on the market are personal pumps and are not hospital-grade (meaning they are much less powerful).
To wrap up
The Spectra S1 is one of the rare hospital-grade pumps that has the trifecta of being affordable, convenient and portable.
Despite its minor shortcomings, I can truly say my Spectra has been a God-send and thoroughly recommend it.
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