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How to Choose a Breast Pump? Spectra S1 Plus Review & 8 Must-Have Features

As this year's National Breastfeeding Awareness Month and Black Breastfeeding Week come to a close, and in honour of all things breastfeeding, I'm posting a product review for one of the most essential baby products a mom could have; a breast pump.

I invested a lot of time researching pumps, and I hope this review will help you save time, give you some information about important breast pump features, and explain why I chose the Spectra S1 Plus.

Choosing a pump is hard, and I felt a lot of pressure to pick the perfect pump. Assuming I would need to pump a few hours a day for approximately one year, I would be attached to a breast pump almost as much as I would my baby, maybe more if I had to go back to work. A pump felt like one of the most critical baby products to purchase (after my stroller and car seat). I knew I would be annoyed if I bought something I wasn't happy with.

MOM HACK: Breast pumps are non-refundable for cleanliness reasons, so do not buy something, thinking you can return it if you don't like it.

If you are like me, you're probably asking yourself a ton of questions:

  • Is it worth it to splurge on a pump?

  • What's the difference between the Spectra 1 and Spectra 2?

  • Is the Medela Sonata or the Elvie pump worth it?

  • What features do I need?

  • What is the best pump for a working mom? What's the best pump for a stay at home mom?

  • The list goes on….

So before you spiral out of control and fall down the breast pump rabbit hole, I want to share my research and why I chose the Spectra 1 Plus out of the overwhelming list of pump options. My review will also offer you some great insight into the features you should consider when picking your pump.

I did a poll of all my Mom friends, and everyone liked a different pump for different reasons. Some loved the hands-free pumps, and some of my friends hated them and said they were not strong enough. Some had splurged on the fancy top-of-the-line expensive pumps with collection cups and then wished they hadn't shelled out the cash.

As far as price goes, the range is vast, and all other questions aside, what I really wanted to know was:

Is it worth it to spend a lot of money on a breast pump?

They can cost anywhere between $100 - $500. For example, the pumps listed are amongst the most expensive; the Medella Sonata ($399), Medella Freestyle Flex ($325), Willow Pump ($400.00), and the Elvie ($500).

The short answer for me is no. Not worth the money.

Ultimately, I am happy I chose the Spectra S1 Plus (retails for $199), and here are features to consider when picking your pump. Btw, this is my unbiased review, and I am not being paid or sponsored or paid by Spectra.

  1. How much money can you afford to spend?

  2. Do you have insurance that will offset or cover the cost of the pump?

  3. Does it have good suction strength?

  4. Are you looking for a breast pump for a working mom?

  5. Which standard features do you think you will need?

  6. Is it portable and lightweight?

  7. Is it hands-free?

  8. Is it battery operated or rechargeable?

  9. Is it quiet?

  10. Is it easy to use?

  11. What kind of parts does it require?

My decision was not based solely on price, but it was a major factor. Suction strength and portability and insurance coverage were the other key features that impacted my vote.

Many insurance providers cover or partially cover breast pumps, but there is a catch.

The insurance providers don't let you pick any breast pump that is on the market. They have a shortlist of pumps they cover in full (those pumps are usually in the $100.00 range), or they will pay a portion of the cost of a more expensive pump, as long it's on their shortlist.

Unfortunately, the newer, more expensive pumps are not covered by most insurance companies. The ones I mentioned above were not covered by my insurance, but I was torn, I wanted the best. In the end, I couldn't justify not using my insurance and paying the steep price for any of the others.

8 breast pump features that influenced my decision to choose the Spectra S1 Plus.

1) Affordable Price Point at $199.00

For what you get, plus the insurance coverage, the price is right. However, to get the Spectra S1 Plus, I did have to pay an additional $75 because as the difference between the Spectra 1 and Spectra 2 is the rechargeable battery, which means portability (the 1 Plus gives you the freedom to walk around and not have to be tethered to a wall).

2) Strong suction power (Measured in mmHg).

The most important feature to consider when picking a breast pump (other than price) is efficiency. The better the suction power, the less time you need to spend pumping!

The Spectra 1 Plus has excellent suction and is one of the strongest pumps at 270 mmHg, comparable to Hospital-grade pumps. I can usually pump 3-4 oz in 6-8 mins (depending on how engorged I am). There are different suction strengths and a massage feature to encourage let-down.

3) It's easy to use!

I managed to figure out how to use it for the first time at 4:00 am in a sleepy haze.

It doesn't have a lot of buttons or settings, which can be confusing. I find that the Medela and other pumps have way too many bells and whistles that can slow you down. It doesn't have an app like the others, but in the end, I didn't feel I needed one. I was already using some other apps that I preferred (like Huckleberry and the Hatch Baby App).

4) It has a Closed Circuit System.

Meaning it is more sanitary.

A closed system does not allow for milk to backflow into your pump or tubes. Backflow can destroy your machine or create moisture in the parts and tubes, causing mold. FYI, it is not a good idea to wash your tubes (they function to suction airflow, not transport breastmilk), so they shouldn't be washed as they may get moldy if moisture gets inside. They do suggest wiping them down, though.

5) It has a rechargeable battery, therefore, it's portable.

This was a must for me because I didn't want to be tethered to a wall or plugged in while pumping.

The majority of the time, I was sitting, but there have been many occasions that I needed to grab something for the baby or walk around, and with this pump, I could (plus it has a well-functioning handle). Again, portability is the main differentiator between the Spectra S1 and S2 (as the S2 must be plugged into a wall).

The battery for this pump lasts forever! Now that I don't pump as often, I charge it about once every two weeks. Yes, it can last that long.

FYI, I would not recommend this pump for working mothers who are regularly on the go. There are much smaller pumps that are more portable if you are going to work full-time, but I have not reviewed the others and understand that they do not have the best suction or other features that I liked in the Spectra 1 (check out the suggested pumps for working mothers at the end of this post).

6) It is really, really quiet.

You won't wake the baby! Bonus: The pump also has a great nightlight.

7) The parts are easy to clean.

There are only 5 major pieces to sterilize after you pump, and they don't have any deep crevices that you need to scrub with a tiny brush that could get moldy.

8) Compatible accessories:

Since Spectra is a popular pump brand, you can easily find compatible accessories, like baggie holders or collection cups that fit with this pump.

CUPS: Initially, I wanted to buy the Elvie and Willow pumps because of their wearable milk collection cups, but I could not justify the price. Alternatively, if you don't want to look like a cow being milked (with the flanges hanging out of your bra), you can also purchase separate wearable collection cups to insert into your bra. Freemie (linked here) makes a pair compatible with the Spectra and some other pump brands. I haven't tried them myself, but they have good reviews on Amazon. Plus, the Freemie Cups and Spectra 1 Plus combined is still $200 cheaper than the Elvie & Willow.

BOTTLES/BAGGIES: Since the Spectra is not adaptable with other bottles, I usually prefer to use baggies and then transfer the milk to a bottle when needed. I use the Lansinoh bags and also bought this game-changing bag funnel attachment (link here) so you can pump directly into the bags.

Overall, I am so happy I bought this pump and didn't spend a lot of money. It works great!


If you want more information on pumps, I love the comparison charts below, they provide a great snapshot of different pump features:

Suggested Alternative Pump's:

The other contenders I considered were the Motif Luna & the Medela® Pump in Style; each has decent suction strength at an affordable price point and is generally covered by insurance.

Best Pump for Working Moms:

If you are work full-time and must be 100% portable and discreet, I would consider the Medela Freestyle Breast Pump. It is a bit more expensive but may be worth the extra cash over the Spectra brand pumps. The Freestyle pump is more affordable because Medela came out with a new next-generation model, (the Freestyle Flex), so the original Freestyle is a good option considering its comparable features.


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