While pregnant with my second child, I was excited to embark on another breastfeeding journey. I soon learned that in the four years since having my first, wearable, silent and portable breast pumps had entered the market. What exactly did this mean? It meant that a cordless, hands-free and fit-in-your-bra pump would untether me from the wall and give me ultimate freedom while pumping. Eventually, I settled on purchasing the Elvie breast pump. The other wearable pump on the market is Willow.
I was so excited to use it, but it was also new technology. How would it stack up to the tried and true Spectra S2 that I had used with my first? Would it get similar results?
I decided to start pumping milk to share feeding duties with my husband around the time my son was four weeks old. This timing was important because I wanted to make sure our breastfeeding relationship was well-established and that my supply was regulated to his needs. First, I settled on using the Elvie pump, instead of the free Spectra S2 from insurance, since I was still breastfeeding my son full-time at home. I would only pump one or two times per day on a few days per week to build a small stash. In other words, it was a perfect time to experiment.
The Good of Elvie v. Spectra S2
The Elvie is a next-level, sleek, futuristic pump! Because I bought the double Elvie, I have two units made up of three parts: the hub (the actual pumping apparatus), detachable milk catcher with spout and valve (this feature sold me on the Elvie), and the breast shield. See the full specs here.
The Elvie parts are easy to clean, sanitize, use and set up. I charged the hub, hooked it up, fit the shield to my breasts, put it in my bra, and pressed start. Easy peasy. I can’t express how freeing it was to NOT be attached to a wall that first time I tried the pump. You can walk around, go to the bathroom, and even get something to eat! Over the next few weeks, I repeated this routine and added activities to my pumping time, including taking my baby for a walk around the neighborhood. Because the Elvie is very quiet and fits in your bra, no one can tell you are pumping. This aspect is amazing.
How it works
The Elvie starts in “let down”, or massage mode, and then automatically switches to expression mode that can be adjusted to seven different suction levels. It is easily controlled right on the hub or in the app. Yes, this pump even has an app!
The app also tracks how much milk is pumped in real time, but over the course of some months, I found the app to be a bit inaccurate. This wasn’t a big deal for me; I just weighed whatever I pumped on a kitchen scale to get exact measurements. The pump also has an automatic shutoff if you pump about 5 ounces and reach the top of the milk catcher. I found this feature to be accurate and incredibly helpful on those occasions I pumped a lot of milk since the bottles are not visible like a traditional pump!
As compared to the Spectra S2 (or any traditional pump), there is obviously no comparison. The big and awkward breast shields that you need a special pumping bra for, the clunky main unit and various cords, as well as the membranes, duckbills and backflow protectors, just make the traditional pumps inconvenient to use. However, the Spectra has many more controls, including cycle buttons (speed) AND vacuum buttons (strength of suction). This is in addition to the massage/expression button, making it easy to switch between massage and expression mode.
The Not-So-Good of Elvie v. Spectra S2
While the Elvie is INCREDIBLY convenient, I did notice some drawbacks. It definitely produces inconsistent results because the new technology is a bit fickle. Since the hub sits on your breasts inside a regular bra, it can easily move out of place. I also found that if the parts were not bone dry, or got wet during let down, the hub could lose suction. There were times where it was perfect, and then the next time my output was way less. I would sometimes hand express after and get to two or more additional ounces, which indicated insufficient emptying. Because this was my second breastfeeding journey, I was able to recognize this right away and solve the issue. If I had been a first time Mom, I may not have known what was going on. This can have a potential devastating effect on your supply!
Consistency is key
Consistency is where the Spectra S2 shines. After my son started daycare at six months old and I had to pump to make his bottles, I decided to do a direct comparison of Elvie v. Spectra. It was not even close for me. I pumped two to four ounces more on days using my Spectra! And I never had to worry about whether the pump would move or get wet and lose suction. Of course I could not move during the session, but I used the time to respond to emails or watch TV.
I eventually transitioned to using the Spectra S2 mostly on weekdays to ensure I had enough to make my son’s bottles, I used the Elvie at all other times I needed convenience.
The Final Answer
After using both breast pumps for over six months, my standard recommendation is to have one traditional pump. I prefer Spectra over Medela, and the Elvie. I think it is paramount to learn how to pump and know your norm by using a pump that gets consistent results. However, the convenience of the Elvie cannot be beat. I cannot count the amount of times I was able to save time, be mobile, and multitask using the Elvie. It is life-changing and I hope the pump only gets better over time.