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Hands-on Gear Review
Spectra Baby USA S1 Hospital Grade Review
Price: $345 List | $198.00 from Amazon - 43% Off
Pros: Efficient, comfortable, portable, fashionable, easy to use, quiet, hygienic, good customer service
Cons: Expensive, only one bottle holder, incompatible with pumping bra
Bottom line: A little expensive but worth it for superior quality, efficiency, hygiene, quiet sound, comfort and style.
The Spectra S1 is the breast pump that moms have been waiting for. We would even go so far to call it the "Cadillac" of breast pumps. In fact, it's so comfortable and efficient, you'll wonder if it's even working at first, until you look down and see ounce upon ounce of that "liquid gold", aka, breast milk effortlessly being expressed. It's so quiet you'll question it's pumping prowess, but again, you'll see results in no time flat. It's easy to use, portable, and hygienic. Need we say more? Okay, okay…it is a little pricey. In fact, it was the most expensive pump we tested. However, we urge you to consider the fact that not only are you investing in a machine that will contribute to the very nourishment of your child, but it could also become your constant companion, accompanying you to work, on vacations, on a mom's night out, etc. In our opinion, it's just about worth every penny. Read on for more details and why we gave this pump our coveted Editors' Choice Award!
RELATED: Our complete review of breast pumps
Analysis and Hands-on Test Findings
The Spectra Baby USA S1 Hospital Grade double electric breast pump was our Editors' Choice Award winner for a number of reasons. This machine and all its accessories simply out-performed any of the other pumps we tested. There may be some initial sticker shock, but we found, as with many things in life, you get what you pay for. This very comfortable, efficient, and portable pump is a whisper-quiet, beautifully designed solution for your pumping needs. More than anything else, what really sold us on this product is the fact that you could use it multiple times without becoming sore. Overall, it really was a no-contest winner out of all the pumps we tested.
So where did such a fantastic product originate from? We discovered that these pumps were first sold in the UK and Australia. After gaining popularity abroad, the company began selling their pumps in the US. Spectra is actually owned and run by moms who also hold the title of Registered Nurse and Certified Lactation Consultant. Those are all titles you want to hear when you think about a breast pump you'll not only rely on, but feel good about using. Lastly, dare we say this pump is cute? It pays off to have women running the company in more ways than one. If you have to carry this thing around with you, it may as well look good!
We scored this pump the highest in our efficiency category with a 9/10. We felt this product was the closest we came to the experience of breastfeeding, and to our testers, the most natural feeling of the pumps we tested. The features on this pump are many, and include adjustable speed and suction settings that enable you to find the rhythm that works best for you. We found when you have it on the highest settings for both, it was more efficient but still did not cause any breast or nipple pain or soreness like some of the other pumps did. While the amount of milk produced will be different for each mom, we found that overall, this pump produced the same amount of milk in a shorter amount of time for us.
This pump claims to be a "hospital grade" pump. We found that this is really more of a marketing ploy as the FDA doesn't recognize this term for breast pumps. Most of the time, a "hospital grade" pump distinguishes that the pump is meant for multiple users rather than a single user. Still, having used the pumps at the hospital as well, we would say this pump stands up to the quality, and even surpasses the efficiency of some hospital pumps, mainly because you can drain both breasts at the same time with the Spectra S1.
Medela Harmony Manual at a 10/10, but the Spectra S1 came in right behind that with a 9/10. A manual pump is naturally a little more comfortable due to the fact that it does not have a motor behind it producing a higher level of suction. Still, for an electric pump, the S1 was surprisingly comfortable, and as stated before, did not cause any pain during pumping or soreness following. We found that with many of the other pumps, some of the harsh pumping could be painful and lead to soreness, but this pump, even on its highest setting, was comfortable and had more of a gentle pulling sensation on your breast rather than the uncomfortable "tugging" that all the other electric pumps we tested produced.
Ease of use
Medela In Style Advanced which received a perfect a 10/10. Still the Spectra is very portable and easy to use on the go. The pump alone does not come with a tote bag or insulated bag, however, they now have an option to buy all three together on their website. It is possible to fit the pump with all of its parts, as well as the insulated bag, inside the tote. Our testers found it easier to carry the insulated bag separately so that other essentials such as lunch, keys and wallet could also be carried in the tote.
The cute factor comes into play once again with portability as the entire set-up just looks good. Some of our testers even mentioned receiving compliments on the sleek look of this pump and accessories. The tote bag itself is basic black but with a quilted thread running through it to give it a little extra style. There is one pocket on the outside and one on the inside for added storage. The lining of the bag is a classic tan and plaid print which looks clean and stylish. The insulated bag is also a good looking accessory. It is an off-white with light pink diagonal stitching throughout. It fit more bottles than any other included insulated bag we tried, holding up to 8 bottles, depending on how you stack them. We liked that if you have a long day at work you don't have to worry about where to store all the milk. We urge you to refer to our article Best Practices for Handling Breast Milk for more on this topic.
The cooler bag also comes in handy when you are traveling with your baby who has started eating purees. There is plenty of room for milk as well as baby food, ice packs, spoon, bib, etc.
We scored the Spectra with a 10/10 for acoustics, rivaling only the Medela Harmony Manual. Still, aside from a manual pump, this is the quietest electric pump we found. Instead of a loud, squeaky motor sound like most electric pumps, the Spectra S1 sounds more like it is actually whispering. The pump has a button just above the blue power button that gives you this whisper quiet pumping experience. You will only hear a "shhh, shhh, shhh" sound coming from the machine. The sound does not get louder the higher you go on the settings, but the "shhh" sound will become more frequent if you increase the cycle setting. We did notice that the pump is slightly louder when placed on a hard surface like a table as compared to a soft surface like a cushion on a chair or couch.
Many moms who go back to work are often stuck in a semi-private location to pump, although your employer is supposed to provide you a private area. It can be a very uncomfortable situation, in some cases, even having to put signs up that say "please knock, pumping" or worse, not even having the luxury of posting a sign. The only downfall to the quiet nature of this pump is that it might not give your co-workers that loud warning from a hundred feet away like some other pumps would! This pump has been known to cause some uncomfortable encounters between co-workers, when… surprise! Someone is pumping in the break room.
While this pump is one of the most expensive we tested with a list price of $345, it has so much to offer and we'd still consider it a great value. As stated before, if you are planning on pumping frequently and for a long period of time, it is well worth the cost in our opinion. Our testers went as far as to say they would never use another pump again! When you buy this pump as a bundle with the tote bag, insulated bag and extra bottles, it really goes a long way. Again, you're not just paying for the accessories here, you are paying for the experience you get while pumping which is superior to other pumps in so many ways.
After testing the pump for about six months, the pump simply stopped working. It would no longer power up when plugged in, nor would the built-in rechargeable battery work. This was very disappointing as this pump really was the stand out winner in our Breast Pump category. The company has a new, user-friendly website, and we were able to contact customer service who stated that very few pumps have had the same problem, and in this case, they just sent us a new pump. Once the new unit arrived, we followed their instructions to return the old pump. They did not offer a return label but they did reimburse us for our shipping costs.
This pump delivers! Even with the set back of needing a replacement pump, the S1 is still our favorite by far. The customer service was great and we just can't ignore the wonderful qualities of this pump. It really hits the mark on so many different levels, being efficient, portable, hygienic, easy to use, whisper quiet and cute. If you are looking for the best, this is it. Rightfully garnering our coveted Editors' Choice Award, this will be an investment you will appreciate again and again.
Other Versions and Accessories
Spectra makes two other models. The Spectra DEW 350 was included in our breast pump review, and the Spectra S2 Double Breast Pump was given a first look review.
— Lindsay Smith and Curtis Smith
Most recent user review: August 10, 2016
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