If you have just found out you’re expecting, you have probably started doing some serious research. And there is SO MUCH. What is the best car seat? What’s the best stroller? Should I do purees or baby lead weaning? Do I need a video monitor or just an audio one? Should I exclusively breastfeed, exclusively pump, do both, or formula feed? And there is A LOT of information out there on all of these questions and more.
SO, if you are like me you are not going to push yourself into one category. Instead you are open to all, however you have a semi-plan plus a goal.
When I found out I was pregnant with Isaac I immediately knew that I wanted to breastfeed. When I was twelve my mom had my little sister and the “second liter” began. The youngest was born when I was 16, so I grew up seeing my mom breastfeed. Honestly, I have planned on breastfeeding since I was probably 15, 8 years before I even thought about getting pregnant!
The difference between the days my mom was breastfeeding and now, is that most insurance plans cover a breast pump. Which is perfect for moms returning to work, but are awesome to have no matter what if you are breastfeeding.
Honestly, a breast pump goes on my “need-to-have list” for any breastfeeding mama’s!
Why You Should Invest in a Breast Pump
Whether you will be returning to work or not, I fully recommend getting a breast pump. Most insurance plans cover one but if yours doesn’t, check Facebook marketplace or a local mom’s group! You can always buy new parts for a secondhand pump because the pump is the expensive part!
But I digress. The reason I recommend getting a pump, no matter your situation, is that they are just great to have on hand. First of all, it takes a little while for your supply to come in. Pumping between feeds in those early days helps build your supply.
Once your supply comes in, it can take a while to regulate. For me, this meant that my boobs were leaking as soon as I hit two hours since the last feeding. Isaac would sleep in four-hour stretches from day one which meant my boobs physically hurt by the time he ate. (SIDE NOTE: I suggest these nipple pads!) Pumping between feeds not only kept up my supply, but also helped keep me comfortable and built a stash of frozen milk!
Even after my supply regulated, I was pumping at night before bed every night and most mornings before Isaac woke up. And that was JUST to keep from getting clogged up.
No, I wasn’t returning to work, but the frozen milk was always great to have when I needed a night out.
The final reason I suggest a breast pump to everyone is in the event that your milk supply decreases. There is no better way to help increase your supply then by pumping between feeds! Your boobs, like the economy, work on a supply and demand basis. The more your boobs think they need to produce, the more they produce.
Picking a Breat Pump
Before I get into my review of the two breast pumps, I want to tell you why I chose what I chose.
Before you even start looking into all types, you need to find out what is covered by insurance. The medela pump-in-style seems to be fully covered by most plans. Medela is also an incredibly well-known brand for all things breastfeeding/pumping. Actually, no matter what pump you get, I absolutely recommend their storage system. I use the medela bottles as quick storage ALL THE TIME.
When I was pregnant with Isaac, I ordered the Medela pump-in-style. It was fully covered by insurance and was also the pump that I knew about. My mom used their handheld one with her babies, and my SIL used the same pump with her kids, so I recognized the brand. *I should note that when I ordered through insurance it did not come with the bag. Going back, I wish I had ordered directly through medela’s site instead of the third party.
When I was pregnant with Addie, I had a new insurance plan (Ben had switched jobs) and I had heard awesome things about spectra. I wanted to try it out and was happy that it was covered by insurance. I did have to pay $79 out of pocket to get the S1 Plus.
Bottom line, check with your insurance first!
Now before I get into detail about each one I want to say this: both pumps work GREAT. They do the job and are super easy to use. There are a few key differences that I will explain, and this is where you need to figure out which one will fit into your life best.
So first up, the Medela!
The Medela Pump-in-Style
As I stated earlier, Medela is an incredibly well-known brand. They make EVERYTHING for pumping/breastfeeding and they are good at it. They are the #1 recommended brand by moms and doctors. The Medela Symphony can be found in most hospital mother+baby recovery rooms.
With Isaac, I was in the hospital for four nights so I got to know that pump really well. The hospital also gave me a ton of spare parts that work with all medela models. I do think most hospitals have these spare parts to use, and you can take home!
Through insurance, I was able to get the Medela Pump-in-Style. Through insurance, it did not come with the bag that it fits in perfectly, so I would do a bit of research before ordering through a third party. I ordered mine through Areoflow, which was very simple but I didn’t get everything.
What I Love about the Medela
The medela is small and yet very, very powerful. The vacuum power is easy to adjust and there is also a letdown mode to get your flow going. The pump parts are easy to clean and can be used with any hands-free pumping bra. The physical pump is also really small, so it’s easy to pack up and bring with you. I think this is a great option for moms going back to work for that reason!
As I said, at the hospital I received a bag of spare parts and you can always get them on Amazon. This one from amazon actually comes with a battery pack that makes the pump portable. I did not have one but just found out you can order one here!
There are two things big things that I was missing with the Medela.
Number One: it is not chargeable/wireless. Yes, you can get the chargeable battery pack but it didn’t come with mine. Also, it would be really nice to have one built into the pump, just so I have less to pack up.
Number Two: I wouldn’t say this pump is quiet. It isn’t really loud, per se, it is just noisy.
As a third, honorable mention, there are a lot of pieces with this pump.
The pump, power adaptor, bottle, breast shield, connector, valves, membranes, and tubing.
No, these parts aren’t hard to clean but there is a lot of little pieces. I also needed to replace the valve membranes after about six months, and I gwas NOT exclusively pumping. They aren’t expensive, but still something to think about.
ALSO, you can’t just buy the bags. I find this incredibly annoying since the bags are literally made to carry/conceal this pump. You get the bag if you buy the whole set. I don’t know if I just did something wrong when ordering through insurance?
Final Thoughts on Medela
Overall, this was a great pump and did its job. I kept the pump in this nursery caddy (since I didn’t get the bag) on the end table next to the couch. It would be really nice if you could order their bags separately. And finally, it could be quieter.
Now for the spectra:
The Spectra S1
As I said earlier, I really wanted to try the Spectra. I heard a little bit about it and started to look into it during my pregnancy with Addie. From my experience with Medela I knew what I didn’t like, mainly that it didn’t have a built-in rechargeable battery. I went back and forth for a while about getting a second pump but in the end, my curiosity got the best of me.
I ended up ordering the Spectra S1 because of the rechargeable battery. Since I have family in NY and now in SC, so chances are we will be traveling. I figured, if nothing else, it would be nice to have this rechargeable pump for car rides.
Insurance covered all but $79 for this pump as well.
What I Love about Spectra
The rechargeable battery is AWESOME. Seriously, I cannot stress this enough. We haven’t gone anywhere outside the house yet (thanks COVID), but it is really nice to not be tied down by wires or a plug. Pair the pump with this hands-free bra and you are completely mobile. This has been perfect since I routinely have to go figure out what Isaac is getting into mid-pump. Did I mention he can now open the fridge? The pump claims to have 3-hour battery life and it has been holding true. I have to charge this pump maybe once a week, and I use it twice daily AT LEAST. I expected to plug the pump in daily so this was a pleasant surprise
The spectra also has a nightlight in the handle, with two brightness levels. This was a “I didn’t know I needed it” perk and I don’t think I could do without now that I have it.
This pump is also quiet. The medela is not loud but the spectra is so much quieter. Pair this with the nightlight, and I can literally pump in bed without waking up or bugging Ben.
There is also this super convenient bottle holder on the backside of the handle. The Spectra bottle fits perfectly in this space so you can carry it around and have a good spot to set one bottle when done.
There are a lot fewer parts. The pump, power adaptor, tubing, bottle, shield, valve, and backflow protector. The duckbill valves are one part instead of a valve + membrane like the Medela. And the shield and connector are all one piece. Less pieces=faster clean-up.
Not all hands-free pumping bras fit the Spectra. Because the shield (the part that suctions to your boobs) is the same piece as the connector (the part that spins onto bottle), it doesn’t fit into the bras with a single hole. Like this Medela hands-free bra, which of course is the one that I had from pumping for Isaac. The ones like that Medela are also what you will mostly find in stores like Walmart/Target. You’ll need a hands-free bra with an x-shape design to fit these pump parts. I ordered this one from Amazon.
The spectra is also a lot bigger than the medela. The medela you could easily pack into a normal sized purse if push comes to shove. The Spectra is a purse size itself!
Though it is a popular pump, the hospital isn’t going to have spare parts ready for this pump. If you use the pump in the hospital you are going to have a bunch of Medela parts that will just go to waste unless you grab the adaptors for Medela to Spectra pump. However, that is only if you’re pumping in the hospital and didn’t bring your pump. Also, it’s important to note that I obviously haven’t been in every hospital so I don’t KNOW this info for sure. Check with your OB to see what your hospital carries.
Final Thoughts + What I Use Now
Both of these pumps are awesome and they get the job done. I was super happy with the Medela (and even more excited now that I can order the rechargeable battery pack) and I really love all of the Medela brand accessories. However, I have been using the Spectra since Addie was born. The fact that there is a built in, rechargeable battery really seals the deal for me.
There have been so many times that I have been mid-pump and I hear Isaac getting into something like the junk drawer, or the fridge, and even opening the bathroom door. I’m not plugged into a wall so I can grab the handle to check out what’s going on.
This wasn’t a promblem the first time around because there wasn’t someone else I needed to keep my eye on. If you are on kid #2 and you have the option, get the spectra for this reason alone.
The nightlight is also a super nice feature. As I said, one I didn’t know I needed until I had it so no, I don’t really need it but its nice.
If you have an experience with either of these pumps, or another one I haven’t gotten to try, please share in the comments below!
Until next time,
P.S I am DYING to get my hands on the Elvie pump. If it wasn’t $500 you bet your ass I would be ordering that one.