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Spectra Baby USA S1 Hospital Grade Review

Spectra Baby S1
Editors' Choice Award
Price:   $345.00 List | $165.00 at Amazon - 52% 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.
Editors' Rating:   
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Manufacturer:   Spectra Baby USA

The Skinny

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!

Update — August 2017
Spectra has a new battery powered breast pump available now. The Spectra 9 Plus Advanced Double Electric Breast Pump is made for moms who value portability. It can be used as a double or single pump. Reviewers say that the pump itself is slightly bigger than a soda can. With the lightweight and small profile, some suction power is lost in comparison to the S1, but depending on your needs it may be worth it. This pump retails at $250, almost $100 less than the Spectra S1Plus.


RELATED REVIEW: The Best Breast Pump Review


Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results

Review by:
Lindsay Smith and Curtis Smith

Last Updated:
Friday
August 11, 2017

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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!

Performance Comparison


All hooked up and ready to go. Our experience revealed that the Spectra S1 is one of the easiest pumps to use.
All hooked up and ready to go. Our experience revealed that the Spectra S1 is one of the easiest pumps to use.

Efficiency


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.

Comfort


One of the more comfortable breast flanges shown here shortly after pumping.
One of the more comfortable breast flanges shown here shortly after pumping.
The highest scorer for comfort was given to the 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


Unit with the nightlight powered on.  It offers both a dim and a bright setting.  We loved this unique feature!
Unit with the nightlight powered on. It offers both a dim and a bright setting. We loved this unique feature!
This pump is simple to set up and use. Directions are included but our testers actually found it to be very intuitive to set up. When setting it up for use on the go, you simply connect the breast flange to the bottles, hook them to the "backflow hygienic protectors", which then connect to the tubing. Next, connect everything to the pump and you are ready to go. This pump can be plugged in but also comes with a built-in, rechargeable battery. The buttons are very simple and straight forward to operate. There is a "cycle" side with a plus and minus button, and a "vacuum" side with a plus and minus button. The cycle side controls how fast you want the pump to go and the vacuum side controls the strength of suction. The power button is located directly in the center, and this unit has the added bonus of a nightlight button to the right, which we absolutely loved. The top center has a button in which you can actually decrease the noise from pumping. The digital display screen is sleek and easy to read. It tells you your cycle setting on the left, and on the right, your suction setting, each above a corresponding button. In the center it tells you the amount of time you have been pumping. We found this information to be relevant and well organized.

Portability


Everything loaded in the tote for a long day at work.
Everything loaded in the tote for a long day at work.
We scored this pump at an 8/10 for portability. It was outscored only by the 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.

Hygiene


Hygienic back-flow protectors that connect to the tubing and aid in preventing mold and mildew from building up in the tubes.
Hygienic back-flow protectors that connect to the tubing and aid in preventing mold and mildew from building up in the tubes.
We scored this pump the highest for hygiene, giving it a 10/10. The reason we scored this pump so high is due to the specially designed "backflow hygienic protectors" created to prevent the tubing from building up condensation which poses the risk for mildew to develop like some of the other pumps tested. The pump parts are all easy to take apart, clean and dry. Our testers had no problems with condensation in the tubing and were able to clean and dry the product easily.

Acoustics


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.
The blue power button (lower center). The white button with three lines across it (upper center) across it makes the motor whisper soft.  This feature can be easily de-activated by simply pressing the button.
The blue power button (lower center). The white button with three lines across it (upper center) across it makes the motor whisper soft. This feature can be easily de-activated by simply pressing the button.

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.

Best Applications


After a pumping session at work
After a pumping session at work
This pump is absolutely meant for the every day or frequent pumper. This pump is worth the investment if you are going to be using it a lot. If you only plan on pumping occasionally for date nights or seldom, solo errand running, then the cost of this pump may be a little steep. Still, you cannot beat this pump if you are working and pumping multiple times a day, hoping to pump for a long period of time, while continuing to keep your milk supply up.

Value


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.

Special Note


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.

Conclusion


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

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BabyGearLab Member Reviews


Most recent review: August 11, 2017
Summary of All Ratings

BabyGearLab Editors' Rating:   
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 (5.0)
Average Customer Rating:   
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 (3.5)

50% of 2 reviewers recommend it
Rating Distribution
3 Total Ratings
5 star: 67%  (2)
4 star: 0%  (0)
3 star: 0%  (0)
2 star: 33%  (1)
1 star: 0%  (0)
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   Jan 28, 2017 - 01:06am
pea · vail colorado
I started using the medela in the hospital and found it much easier to use. I simply found this pump too complicated to work and after pumping for 20 minutes got nothing compared to the hospital pump. Could not get it to pump properly and company would not refund/or allow me to return it.

Bottom Line: No, I would not recommend this product to a friend.
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   Aug 10, 2016 - 11:46am
Dcowboys5 · Oklahoma City
Not sure why the above review says this is incompatible with pumping bra, so I wanted to review it. I've been using this pump once a day for two months, and 5 times a day for almost a month. In the past, I used a Hygeia Enjoye LBI for ~1 year. I LOVE this pump! It is crazy quiet! I dislike the flanges it came with, but they are similar to the ones from Medela and Hygeia except that the flange doesn't come apart from the back part that connects to the bottle and tube. The flanges are not super easily interchangeable with others due to the reusable/washable filter attaching right to the flange, but you can buy an adapter that will allow you to use any pumps parts. I personally use the pump with an adapter, the back part of my Hygeia flanges (since I already had those), and then Pumpin' Pals flanges on the front side. I've always smooshed the flange in through the front of the hands free pump bra, which this works doing without any modifications to what comes with it. You can also use Pumpin' Pals flanges with the included flanges (or at least the larger included flanges), but they don't fit in snugly. The pump internal battery holds a good charge so far, and the quiet sound makes it really nice for early morning pump sessions while people in my house are sleeping, for at work, and for in the car. If this pump dies on me, I would 100% buy another. I did really like the Hygeia, but after about six months of pumping (because the original pump was replaced when the pump itself died), and then a break of ten months for the next baby, the internal battery no longer held a charge and I pump while driving a lot so that was important.

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
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