It’s amazing how fast the weeks just seem to fly by when you have a baby to care for 24/7. In a couple of weeks, my 16-week maternity leave will come to an end, and it’s back to work and the usual routine – with some small tweaks along the way.

One of the changes involve me slotting in time to pump at work, and then some latching and more pumping once I am back home. This means that it’ll be a mad rush between pumping, washing up, sterilising and packing the pump to take to work. I can’t imagine going through all that hassle and surviving on just my trusty Medela Freestyle pump alone (which, according to the staff at the service centre, is showing signs of slowing down – although overall it is still in good workable condition). So, to skip skip the madness and to avoid missing out any parts, I’ve decided to get another breast pump to be placed and used at home.

I’ve thought long and hard on which pump to get, and finally after reading tons of reviews by other mums, I settled with the Spectra S1 breast pump. The Spectra S1 breast pump is highly regarded as one of the best hospital grade pumps out there, as it performs well in terms of clearing milk from the breasts. Another plus point of the S1 is that it not too pricey either compared to other brands. A brand new local set costs around $379 when buying from baby fairs, or you can get the Korean set from Qoo10 for $279.

I got my hands on the Korean set, which basically means that all instructions provided were in Korean. I needed to find out how to assemble the pump and how to operate it, so I turned to online videos and websites, and posted up questions on the Exclusive Pumping Mums group on Facebook to get help from the experts. Thought I’d share the basic must-knows of the Spectra S1 breast pump here, just in case there are mums who bought the Korean set too and need help in figuring out how the pump works.

Taking the Spectra S1 Breast Pump Apart

Your Spectra S1 Breast Pump comes with the following parts and accessories:

  • The motor
  • Tubing
  • Backflow connector
  • Flanges
  • Valves
  • 160ml feeding bottle (which can also be used as a storage bottle)

How to use

1. Turning on/off the breast pump

spectra s1 breast pump

Press the power button to turn on and off the breast pump.

Upon turning on the pump, it automatically operates on expression mode (unlike Medela which starts off on letdown mode). To switch to letdown mode, press the “wave” button once. You will see this “wave” icon on the screen on your pump, which tells you that you are in letdown mode. When you are done with letdown (that’s when milk starts flowing into the bottle), press the “wave” again to go back to expression mode.

2. Adjusting cycle speed and vacuum strength

During my first pump with the Spectra S1 breast pump, I got so confused with these settings. So, I devised a “formula” to help myself remember what they are for.

Think of Cycle as the speed in which you are comfortable to use while pumping.

On the other hand, vacuum will be the strength or intensity of the suction at which the pump operates in. It is important to choose the right combination which does not cause you to feel pain.

The Spectra S1 breast pump operates on the following cycle and vacuum settings:

In letdown mode:

Cycle speed – 70

Vacuum strength – 1 to 5

In expression mode:

Cycle speed – Choose from 38, 42, 46, 50 and 54

Vacuum strength – 1 to 12

Choosing the right settings requires a few tries until you get to one that suits your pumping needs. For letdown mode, you can slowly increase the vacuum strength to one that helps you achieve letdown more effectively, while for expression mode, you might want to start off with a low cycle speed and gradually increase the vacuum strength.

3. Single pumping

spectra s1 breast pump

The Spectra S1 breast pump comes with 2 outlets to connect the tubings. To switch to single pumping, just cover the lower tubing outlets with the rubber piece below it.

4. The night light

spectra s1 breast pump

This is one of the most useful features of the Spectra S1 breast pump – for me, anyway. Since I would need to pump in the dark in the middle of the night, that’s where the night light of the pump comes in handy. This can be adjusted to 2 different levels.

I’d also like to mention how quiet the motor of the S1 truly is, even while using it on the highest cycle speed and vacuum strength. There’s no need to cover the motor with the blanket and worry that it might wake the baby up!

 

Additional Tips

Valves

The Spectra S1 breast pump comes with the original valves, which are made of thin rubber. I find this to be the worst part of the pump ever!

Not only did it stick together on my first use and cause my milk to get stuck, I’ve heard reviews from other mums that these valves tend to tear quite easily too and compromise the suction strength of the pump. To solve this issue, a lot of pump users switched to Maymom valves which are made of plastic and comes with rubber membranes. I have made the switch myself and found that suction is so much better and the valves are a lot more durable. A big plus is that it can be sterilised safely as I am quite particular about sterilising all the pump parts after use. It has been said that the original Spectra valves should not be placed in the steriliser, but to just run it through warm water.

spectra s1 breast pump

Note: When attaching the Maymom valves, there is no need to push it too hard – or you will have a hard time removing it after your pump session. Just fix them into place without adding pressure.

 

The backflow connector

spectra s1 breast pump
The instructions to put together the Spectra S1 accessories, printed on its packaging in Korean.

This was another thing which baffled me when trying to figure out the Spectra S1 breast pump. How on earth do I put together the backflow connectors?

After a few tries and errors, I devised yet another “formula” to help my mum brain remember:

The curved part of the rubber piece fits into the smaller plastic covering, and this while piece is fixed onto the bigger plastic covering. And that’s gives you the complete setup of the backflow connector.

From there, the bigger tube of plastic covering connects to the flange while the small tube goes with the tubing.

 

Flange size

Choosing the correct flange size for the pump was another big turn for me. I thought that all flange sizes of the different breast pump brands are created equal. With the Medela Freestyle, I use 24mm on one side and 27mm on the other. Thinking that it would be the same for the S1, I got the 24mm and 28mm flanges (this pump set came with the 28mm flange) – only to find that the 24mm is way too small. After some thinking and trying, I finally found the right sizes with the 28mm and 32mm.

So, moral of the story – do not assume that all flange sizes are the same across all brands of breast pumps. The Spectra flanges comes in sizes of 20, 24, 28 and 32mm.

How would you know if a flange size is the right one? For me, I base it on the fact that the nipples should not be rubbing against the flange while pumping and the areola should not be pulled out too much. And of course, you should not feel pain or discomfort after the pumping session.

This guide by Medela is a good one to follow.

 

Pumping time

For now, my pump duration is about 20 minutes per session. I know that some mums can go up to 30 minutes and beyond per session. For safety reasons, the Spectra S1 breast pump will switch off automatically after operating for 30 minutes.

 

I hope that the guide and tips above would help you along the way in figuring out how to use the Spectra S1 breast pump. While it may seem like a lot to take in at first, it will get easier after doing it for a few times. One thing that I have noticed is that the S1 does a better job in removing milk from the breasts – even more so than the Medela Freestyle (which I thought was doing quite alright all the while). But yeah, I was able to get so much more out with with S1 compared to my Freestyle.

Happy pumping to all breastfeeding mummies – don’t forget to massage, massage and massage while pumping to get the most out of it 🙂

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