When the munchkin was born, the midwives in the maternity ward recommend that mothers intending to breastfeed should pump after each feed in order to establish supply. The standard equipment provided is the Medela Symphony.
For reference, before bub was born, we’d researched pumps in the event we would need one, and we’d narrowed it down to the Spectra S2. The other popular consumer level options in the Avent and Medela range just didn’t seem to review very well online or with people we know, and even the midwives and lactation consultants were recommending the Spectra over these other brands.
Disclaimer: While Spectra have an affiliate program, and the links to their site use my referral link, the Spectra discussed in this review was a personal purchase.
Having had the opportunity to use both the Medela Symphony in the hospital, and our first week home (total two weeks frequent use) and the Spectra S2 since, these are the observations I have made.
The Medela Symphony comes with a slot for a program card. At the hospital, this was the Symphony Plus program card which has two configurations: Initialise and Maintain.
The Initialise program is designed for those wanting to build their supply, and it runs for approximately 15 minutes. The Maintain program is for those who have established supply and want to maintain it. I think this one keeps running until you stop it. You can toggle between the two programs using the two drops button on the device.
Not having intended to pump prior to entering hospital, I hadn’t made any plans to obtain one for when we got home. In the event I needed one, the plan was to rent a Spectra from Justine at Cherished Parenting who offers a rental service in Perth. Unfortunately, she happened to be on vacation our first week home, so we had to rent a Medela from our local pharmacy as a stop gap.
What we didn’t know was that the Medela rental program for these third party services only provides the Symphony 2.0 program card. This card only has one program that auto-starts. It gives you about 1.5min of the ‘let down’ mode, then transitions into the regular pump rhythm which continues until you stop it. The case the rental comes in has the Symphony Plus card in the manifest, but it’s simply not included. When we asked the pharmacy about it, they contacted Medela who said that the Plus card is new and hasn’t been rolled out to the rentals yet. But “2.0 does the same thing and will give you the same results”.
I can tell you with almost complete certainty that this not true. Having supply issues, and having been instructed to pump after every feed (1.5-2 hourly at the time) I most certainly had better results with the Initialise program while we were in hospital than with the 2.0 program at home.
If you’ll be renting a Medela Symphony, definitely see if you can get the Symphony Plus card with it, if only for the option of having the two separate programs to experiment with.
The day Justine delivered our rental Spectra S2, I noticed an immediate improvement. For someone with supply troubles for whom expressing close to half an ounce was considered great victory, the Spectra was able to more consistently get me close to or more than that more often. Yes there were some low or negligible pumps with the S2, but when it was good, it was very good.
I attribute this improvement to the vibrate style suction of the Spectra compared to the standard suction of the Medela. Neither will be as efficient as a baby, but there was definitely better and more consistent drainage with the Spectra.
You may also think that it was the Spectra collection kit or specifically the flange that will have contributed to this improvement, but I actually used my Medela collection kit from the rental with the Spectra S2 pump. They’re not natively compatible, but I used an adapter for the kit which allowed me to connect the Medela bottles to the Spectra tubing so that I wouldn’t need to purchase an additional flange for the Spectra kit. So the clear difference was the pump itself.
There are also two additional features on the Spectra S2 which I find extremely useful. The first is the timer on the machine itself so that you can see how long you’ve been pumping for, very handy as if you are double pumping, you are unlikely to have free hands to check your watch or phone. The second is the night light so you can see the display at night, and it’s dim enough so that it won’t bother the baby if you’re in the same room.
Spectra can only be purchased online, but if you’re in Perth and would like to try one, Cherished Parenting has a great service where you can rent-to-buy a Spectra. After renting one for approximately 6-8 weeks including deposit, you can trade your rental device for a new one which you then own. Even the lactation consultant was impressed by this service when I told her about it. The cost per week may also be less than the cost of renting a Medela Symphony, and you can be assured that your rental cost isn’t sunk money as if you end up needing to pump for more than 6-8 weeks anyway, you then own the device outright.
Otherwise, head on over to Spectra directly and pick one up. I’m now at a stage where I no longer have to pump after every feed, but a Spectra is definitely well worth the money if you need a pump for any length of time. Given my earlier difficulties, I’m confident there would have been far more tears had I gone with another brand.