Let me get this out of the way up front: The Spectra S1 Plus is fantastic! When the NICU nurses told me my preemie needed fortifier, I knew direct breastfeeding was a no-go. Then, when they told me I should use a hospital-grade pump, I imagined some lurking, gas-powered behemoth that was going to cost $1,500. Much to my surprise, the S1 offers all of the features I had come to expect from other popular models for a small fraction of the price.
First, it’s crazy portable. The pump is only about the size of a cantaloupe, and the battery lasts for hours. When you plug it in, you can watch it quickly recharge on the battery indicator. At only 4 pounds, it’s a breeze to carry the S1 Plus around by its built-in handle. As an exclusive pumper, it’s a big relief to know I can get the benefits of a hospital-grade pump no matter where my little one takes me without stuffing a charger into an already-full diaper bag or having to bring a whole other tote just to lug it along.
It’s also got a ton of cool options. The backlit screen displays the cycle length, intensity and timer, all of which are customizable. By default, it starts with a 2-minute letdown cycle and then automatically switches to a deeper, massaging pull that actually feels nice when the girls are full. You can also switch between modes with the touch of a button. It automatically shuts off after 30 minutes, which is fine because it drains a full breast in 15-20 minutes.
One of my favorite features is the night-light built into the underside of the handle; the last thing I want to do when I roll out of bed for those late-night pumps is be blinded by lights or wake up the rest of the house.
There’s no assembly except what you’d expect: attaching the pump to the hoses, flanges and bottles—just like you would after cleaning. The rubber hoses are simple and easily plug in to the pump. The S1 supports single- or double-sided pumping. All you have to do is pop one of the hoses off, and cap the hole. At the end of the hoses are the vacuum membranes; each is enclosed in a plastic housing that keeps them safe from rips and tears but also easily opens up for cleaning. Those plug into the flanges, which are available in multiple sizes and can be swapped out with a simple call to customer service. Unlike other pumps I’ve used, the flange and valve assembly are connected. The two screw on to the collection bottle and the unit is ready to use. In fact, the pump is so intuitive that I had it all put together before I realized there was an instruction manual.
The system comes with a nipple that screws directly on to the collection bottles. It doesn’t include storage bottles or bags, but you can buy them from Spectra. That said, the wide-mouth collection bottles make it easy to transfer your milk into another container.
I did have some trouble with the rubber valves themselves. The design works great and provides awesome suction, but one of them kept falling off of the tube and into my milk. I finally figured out that the secret is that the valve and the tube have to be dry before you reassemble them after cleaning. Still, the S1’s valves are so much easier to clean than other models I’ve used and are far more durable.
I also learned the hard way that the threads on the bottle—the bits that allow you to screw it into the flange and valve assembly—are non-standard and can be tricky. It only takes about a quarter turn to connect the flange and bottle, but if you’re not careful, you can accidentally leave them less than secure and dump a full bottle of fresh milk. All in all, that’s a pretty minor complaint.
The only other quirk to note is that while the S1 is super quiet (on par with my little dude’s white noise machine) it can rattle if it isn’t set flat on a sturdy object. I’ve taken to putting a burp rag under it, so the TV table I use doesn’t vibrate and make noise.
Spectra’s website isn’t super rich, but their customer service was incredible. A friendly voice answered after only two rings, answered all my questions, and sent me a replacement valve the next day (before I realized it was just me). The part was under warranty and the call was really easy—five friendly minutes, tops.
Long story short, the Spectra S1 is the best pump I’ve ever used. It gives you the same hospital-grade power and customizable options you find on more well-known pumps at about half the weight and one-tenth the cost. The S1 is covered by my Humana plan, so I recommend checking with your insurance provider. When you consider the fact that it has a battery and built-in night light (not to mention all of the other great features), it’s a no-brainer: If you’re an exclusive pumper like me, or a busy mom looking for a quality hospital-grade pump, the Spectra S1 Plus is the way to go.
Price: from $199
Where to buy: amazon.com