365 Days and 5 Pumps Later: My Breast Pump Review

I just accomplished a daunting goal: one year of breastfeeding my son.

Let’s hit pause for a minute. Breastfeeding, while natural, isn’t always easy. There are challenges with supply, with latches, with blisters and infections.

My son and I have overcome a lot in twelve months. The biggest hurdles in our nursing journey were his Milk Soy Protein Intolerance (MSPI), which severely restricted my diet, and pumping at work, which is a nuisance and not always supported by employers. (Side note: I’m not a job hopper, but I’ve held three different roles since becoming a mom. As my priorities shifted, so did the things I wanted in my career. I’m SO happy to work at a dream job that celebrates parenthood and truly helps me with work/life integration. I encourage everyone out there to pursue the same!)

Unpause.

I credit three things with meeting my breastfeeding goal:

  1. The investment I made in a nursing-friendly wardrobe. It might sound silly, but whenever I thought about quitting, I felt wasteful for spending so much on “feedwear.”
  2. A supportive tribe – particularly my husband.
  3. A good breast pump.

Today I want to double click into that last one. Because truth is, I’ve used FIVE different pumps during our journey. They all have their pros and cons. I feel grateful we had the resources to try different pumps, and I’m hoping I can save some of you both time and money by sharing my experiences with these pumps.

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PUMP #5: The economic Medela Pump.

medelaMedela’s Pump in Style breast pump is probably the most common one out there. It’s free from most insurance providers. That’s why I initially got it.

I found the Medela simple to use, and since I didn’t have anything to compare it with, assumed it was top of the line. Not the case… but ignorance is bliss!

The biggest advantage in my book is that the Medela is EVERYWHERE. On my first day back to work, I actually forgot one of the many pump parts and the office in the middle of nowhere. Luckily, Wal-Mart sold all the parts so I was able to purchase what I needed without having to make a long trip home.

If I had to do it all over again, I probably would have still gotten the pump through insurance, but donated it to someone who didn’t have that coverage. There are cheaper pumps out there that do a better job.

There are some downsides to this one. It’s loud, has a million parts, and isn’t the strongest pump on the market. Also, I tried using a hands-free bra with the Medela, and wound up with a terribly painful milk blister… never did that again. Ouch!

Price: $198 (covered by many insurance plans)

Pros Cons
Parts sold at most major retailers Lots of parts to clean
Free from most insurance providers Loud
Not too large Doesn’t yield as much milk
No battery for on-the-go
Constrained to sitting down with the pump

 

 

PUMP #4: The powerful Spectra S2.

spectra-pinkI purchased the Spectra S2 after I’d forgotten breast pump parts at home one time too many. My goal was to leave one pump at the office, and the other at home.

I was blown away the first time I used it! I produced almost twice as much milk in half the time. I went from 25 – 30 minute pumping sessions to 15 – 20 minutes.

The Spectra is super quiet and even has a nightlight, making it ideal for middle of the night use. The cost effective Lansinoh bags fit onto the end of the breast shield, so you don’t have to dirty up bottles.

Price: $159 (price recently raised)

Pros Cons
Yields more milk than the Medela No battery for on-the-go
Quiet and has built-in nightlight Parts not sold as widely
Tubing doesn’t need to be cleaned Still constrained to sitting down with the pump

 

 

PUMP #3: The powerful (and battery-operated!) Spectra S1.

spectra-blue.jpgI had an 8-hour interview scheduled, and was really stressed about the pumping scenario. A battery-operated pump would give me the ability to express milk in my car, eliminating one challenge of the day’s logistics. So, I decided to invest in the Spectra S1.

It is EXACTLY the same as the S2, with two exceptions: (1) it’s blue instead of pink, and (2) it has a rechargeable battery. Everything else is the same… nightlight, parts, suction power, you name it!

So, if you think there might ever be a chance that you’ll need to pump and won’t have access to an outlet, I’d upgrade to the S1. Otherwise, the S2 is perfect.

Price: $199 (price recently raised)

Pros Cons
Yields more milk than the Medela Parts not sold as widely
Quiet and has built-in nightlight Hard to find – recently sold out on Amazon
Tubing doesn’t need to be cleaned Still constrained to sitting down with the pump
Battery for on-the-go pumping

 

 

PUMP #2: The manual Haakaa.

hakaaOne of my friends suggested I get the Haakaa manual pump. And I remember thinking, “Nah, that would be a waste, I already have the Medela!” I was dead wrong.

The Haakaa is probably the easiest way to build a supply of breast milk, and I wish I’d been using it from the beginning! While you’re feeding your baby, simply attach the Haakaa on your other breast. It catches the milk that would naturally release and go to waste. Plus, with it’s suction, it manages to pull out additional milk, which could help increase your supply.

I’ve seen some moms post that they get 2 to 4 ounces using it. Generally I only get a half an ounce or so, but if I used it with each feeding throughout the day I’d have more milk to squirrel away! And I’m sure it would have been tremendously helpful in the beginning during that super leaky stage.

Price: $13 (it’s a no brainer!)

Pros Cons
Only one piece to clean Manual – not a good replacement for an electric pump
Easy to use during regular feedings Unlikely to yield large quantities of milk
Catches milk that would otherwise go to waste
Cost effective

 

 

PUMP #1: The hands-free Willow.

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I mentioned before that I had bad luck with my hands-free bra. After a painful experience, I didn’t try to go hands-free again… until the Willow!

My husband had some health savings funds that were going to go to waste when he was changing jobs. He knew I wanted the Willow but thought it was too expensive. So he used his health funds and surprised me! (Funny what you deem a “romantic gesture” changes as a mom. ;-))

This pump is first-class. Even the packaging is so fancy, it feels like you’re opening an Apple product. (In fact, you can watch me nerding out as I unbox the Willow on my Instagram account.)

I wear this in 25-minute sessions (it automatically pauses after that period of time) and produce as much, maybe a little more, than I did with the Spectra. I generally wear it during my commute to/from work, and during my lunch break. Depending on my schedule I might wear it in the office while working, but be advised – you’ll probably want to be in a private room! The suction, while quiet, is audible (especially during the “stimulation” phase), and it will make your breasts look like you stuffed them with a pair of tube socks (see above). Depending on your work environment, it could be awkward to wear around.

On days you wear the Willow, you might want to dress a little differently as well. I wear looser tops to accommodate the pump, and prefer to wear a basic stretchy nursing bra over a lower-cut style.

My favorite thing about the Willow is that I’m able to go about my day without the inconvenience of pausing to pump. I can work, clean, lay down and take a nap – whatever! I wish I had it from the very beginning of my nursing journey, but…

It’s just so darn expensive! Milk bags are about 50 cents each. I pump 3 times a day generally, so that’s $3 a day. I justify it because it’s so much cheaper than the specialty formula he has to use because of MSPI. And, you can use HSA/FSA funds to purchase your bags.

If it doesn’t cause financial stress, I highly recommend this pump. I stop hating pumping when I wear it! But if it’s out of your budget, just remember… my second favorite pump is only $13!

Price: $479 (or $43/month for 12 months)

Pros Cons
Battery operated and cord-free! Pump and bags are expensive and not available on Amazon
App to track your milk production Each breast milk bag only holds 4 ounces (I don’t produce that much, so not an issue for me!)
Few pieces to clean Not quiet enough to wear in an open work environment
Yields more milk than the Medela

 

 

I know there are so many more brands out there I haven’t explored. Is there another pump you love (or hate?!). Comment below and let other mamas know!

2 thoughts on “365 Days and 5 Pumps Later: My Breast Pump Review

  1. Megan McNelia

    Wish I had read this before having baby #3. I got the Medela through insurance, but had the option of getting the Spectra. I researched it a little, but decided to go with Medela since it is so popular and I was hoping it stood the test of time. I just bought a hand pump to use on other breast while nursing and find that easier and saves me time. I wish the Willow was more affordable as that would be beneficial as It is difficult finding time to sit down to pump as a nurse. I might try out the Haakaa though for at home!!!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. My mom likes to say the Medela has stood the test of time for protecting your breasts and nipples! So that’s a huge benefit (on top of the flexibility of being able to buy replacement parts virtually ANYWHERE!). If you give the Haakaa a go, let me know what you think!

      And I completely agree about the Willow. It’s such a bummer that it isn’t more affordable. I thank my lucky stars for our leftover health funds, or else it would have been out of the question! Have you looked into the Freemie? I heard from one mom that she didn’t get quite as much milk from it, but it’s also cordless and less than half the price. Seems to have good ratings online!

      Thanks for checking out the post, Megan, and wishing you an amazing Christmas with your incredible girls!

      Like

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