Breast pumps: Medela versus Spectra

My cat finds pump tubing irresistible.

As a breastfeeding, working mom, I have become intimately acquainted with my breastpumps. With my first baby I got a Medela Pump in Style through my insurance and also used a singe Madela hand pump at times. I pumped fulltime during the days at work or school away from Jackson, my baby #1 and successfully pumped, nursed and donated about 800 ounces of breastmilk for 1 year. With Thomas, my baby #2, I got another pump through insurance (we had different insurance) and a friend gave me her basically brand new pump… so I had 3 Pump in Styles. I left my oldest one in the car, so I could pump while driving using a cigarette outlet in the car, and had one pump at work and one at home. I donated almost 37 gallons of milk with Thomas and made it 13+ months with nursing him.

So with Lukkes, baby #3, there have been some new pumps to come on the scene. My good friend delivered her 3rd baby 3 weeks before I did and she had bought the newest Medela, the Sonata, and was raving to me about how she loved it. She’d previously used the Pump in Style and the Freestyle, so I thought I’d check in to it. Well, it wasn’t covered by insurance and carried a $350-$400 price tag depending on where I looked, so I had my reservations. I was informed that my insurance would cover a Spectra S2, and I had been hearing everyone else rave about this pump. Digging deeper, there is also a S1 version, but the only difference being the battery back up and not being required to be plugged in, but my insurance would make me cover the difference, which the home medical equipment quoted me $120 more. I think it’s kinda lame I didn’t have the same option to upgrade and pay the difference with a Medela.

At Christmas I ended up with a 20% of coupon on “anything” from Target from a black Friday purchase, and I have the RedCard, so I decided that a 25% off break would allow me to upgrade to the Medela Sonata, which would be compatible with all of my Medela bottles (I have a ton!). I started using the Sonata and liked it, but then thought, well, if my insurance is going to pay for another new pump I might as well try the Spectra S2 also, so I got one.

I have hours and hours and hours of experience pumping and feel like I can give a pretty fair overview of Medela versus Spectra to help any mama out there wondering what breast pump will work for them, whether for their first baby or to change it up if your older pumps are ready to be retired (as my poor Pump in Styles were). I have not been compensated in anyway for this review (but hey! #Medela #Spectra I could certainly give a paid perspective!), and would be happy to answer any specific questions you may have.

Efficiency:

  • Medela Pump in Style: 5 ounces in 7-10 minutes from a full breast
  • Medela Sonata5 ounces in 5 minutes from a full breast
  • Spectra S25 ounces in 5 minutes from a full breast

Noisiness:

  • Medela Pump in StyleKinda loud. Like, if you were sitting outside of my office, you’d likely know what I was doing.
  • Medela SonataMuch quieter. Option to mute the machine buttons also.
  • Spectra S2Quite. Not quieter than the Sonata.

Ease of Use:

  • Medela Pump in Style: Super easy. Parts are easy to take apart and clean. Only 2 options to change up – the letdown setting and the pump suction force setting. Is plugged in to the wall, also comes with a battery pack for reusable batteries. The pump flange holders/membrane parts are light and I have always been able to hook them in the little piece of fabric of my nursing tank and be basically hands free when the suction is in place.
  • Medela Sonata:The pump itself is super duper easy to use. It charges and runs on a battery pack. Mine lasted a 5 day work week pumping 2 times per day with it for about 5-7 minutes per session. There are more pump setting options for let down and strength of suction, the pump doesn’t really start pumping until a seal is present with the flange and the breast.  I do feel like the pump flange holders/membranes are cumbersome to clean, have a lot of parts, and are heavier than with the MPIS. I actually have to hold the bottles in place most of the time because of their weight. I will say that the y-shaped tubing is nice, much less tangly than the MPIS.
  • Spectra S2This pump has way more options than what I was used to, but I figured it out. The pump remembers these settings too between pumpings, which is super nice. The pump flange holders/membrane parts are light like with the MPIS, and I could be hands free for the most part. I have the S2, which requires an outlet. The S1, which is more $$ has a rechargeable battery life – I can’t tell you how long it lasts though. Tubing is tangly.

Accessories:

  • Medela Pump in Style: Pump comes with a carrier bag, 4 bottles, insulated bottle bag and ice pack, 2 different sizes of pump flanges (24 and 27mm). No bottle nipple is included.
  • Medela SonataPump comes with a carrier bag, 4 bottles, insulated bottle bag and ice pack, 2 different sizes of pump flanges (24 and 27mm). No bottle nipple is included.
  • Spectra S2Pump comes with 2 bottles, but they do have nipples. Only one size of pump flange, but there are 2 sets – the size isn’t marked on them. No carrier bag for the pump. No bottle bag or ice pack either.

Aesthetics:

  • Medela Pump in Style: Meh.  Everyone knows what’s in that black tote. And the pump itself is hard to get out of its little Velcro hole and is not cute at all – it’s meant to stay in the bag.
  • Medela Sonata I think the Sonata itsself is super cute. It’s not very heavy. It makes nice little sounds when you turn it on or push the buttons (unless it is muted) and the numbers light up for use in the dark. The black bag it comes with is smaller than the MPIS bag, a little cuter, but still kinda screams “there’s a breast pump in here!!” I like that isn’t stuck in the bag though.
  • Spectra S2The Spectra is heavier than the Sonata. I like the pink though. I does have a back lighting button to use for pumping in the dark. Overall it is pleasing to the eye. And I guess you can pick whatever color pump bag you want, because it doesn’t come with one. 

Overall, if I was was looking at getting a new pump and cost wasn’t a factor, I would pick the Medela Sonata (I am kind of a Medela purist though). BUT, most of us get what insurance pays for, in which case, if I’m picking between the Pump in Style and the S2, I am hands down picking the S2…. realizing that the Spectra bottles are more expensive in general and you’ll probably want to buy a pump bag too if you pump anywhere but your own home. And maybe a car adaptor. And if you have money to spend, I do think it’s worth it to have a pump that doesn’t HAVE TO be plugged in, and that is not possible with the S2, so spend the money on an S1. If you already have a Medela, but want to get a Spectra, you can buy adaptors to be able to still use your Medela bottles (phew, because I have invested about a billion dollars in bottles!). The Medela Pump in Style certainly is still a good pump, it got me through at lot of milk, and I am sure I could have continued to use mine without an issue, but I am also blessed with good production and easy pumping for the most part. 

Anyone else have any opinions that they want to share?? Happy Pumping!!

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And then there were 3

{I promise I wrote this post relatively immediately after the baby was born, I was just waiting for the birth pictures to add! He’s now 11 weeks old and I head back to work next week…}

Remember when I told you I was pregnant five months ago? Well, Baby McMillan #3 arrived on October 20th in HIS own little way.

The remainder of my pregnancy went smoothly with normal complaints, especially chasing 2 olders, but nothing extremely noteworthy. Just a big old belly, of which I have so few pictures.

The last week of my pregnancy every evening contractions would come and then go, but on the evening of the 18th they were more intense, more regular and I knew that delivery couldn’t be much further away. I did sleep that night off and on, and even went to kettlebell class at 5am because I was up and I figured it would do nothing except maybe hurry things along. I went to work. Tied some loose ends up and saw a few patients, then headed to my OB appointment that afternoon, all the while having contractions every 10 minutes or so, stopping my path if I needed to, but more than anything I was okay to have a distraction from an impending labor.  At my appointment I was dilated 4cm and my doc offered an admission on L&D, I declined, knowing I likely had multiple hours of labor to go, and knowing my husband was 2 hours away helping with soybean harvest on my family’s farm. I, instead, headed to the grand opening sale of the the Carter’s/Oshkosh store near the clinic and spent $100 🙂 I then went home, washed dishes, picked up toys, finished a load of laundry and generally made sure the house would be ready for my pending abscence. I called my husband and let him know that once he was done hauling his current load of beans, he should head back home. I certainly knew I was in early labor, and just didn’t know how to predict the speed of it all once active labor started for the third time in 4 years. I also alerted our friend who volunteered to stay with our boys while we were gone that tonight was our night. When she came over she helped the boys eat supper and was keeping them entertained while I wandered around the house generally doing nothing but breathing through contractions – she has not had any children yet, and she confirmed that watching me in early labor was certainly not convincing her that she wanted to have a baby anytime soon. We got the boys settled into bed and then got in the car and headed to the hospital.

It was after 9 before we were roomed in triage – I was still about 4 cms dilated and spent the next hour wandering around, because if I laid down the contractions would slow. It just felt like something wasn’t quite right – I knew I was in labor, I was getting exhausted and I really wanted them to break my water, but my physician wasn’t on call and they were pretty busy that night, so they didn’t really need me rushing along. At 10 o’clock I was still about 4 cms, I as I wandered the halls getting through my contractions and willing them to pick up speed, because them just seemed too spaced out to make changes happen. I had a moment of pure frustration and the tears poured out of my eyes – I was hurting, I was tired, and I was worried them were going to send me home. I laid down to be checked at 11pm, and finally she decided I was 5cm and constituted official admission. I asked again to have my bag of water broken – they asked if I wanted an epidural, and at that point I was still on the fence about it. I wanted to do it without at least once, but this was all moving so slowly, I wasn’t sure if I was going to endure without an epidural. They put in my IV, and my care was exchanged from the triage nurse to my labor nurse – she was a proponent for no epidural if I was, and so we headed down that path, all the while I think I was still just reserving my request for an epidural, not really sure why I wasn’t getting one, knowing that the pain was certainly going to get worse.

I walked the halls, I labored in the tub, the contractions got stronger, but still spaced out if I rested anywhere. Finally at 2am the resident came to break my water. She struggled, because my cervix was still so posterior, and with her “sorry my fingers are short,” issues it took her a little while to accomplish that. With my previous labors I had an epidural in place before they broke my water. I really wasn’t sure what to expect, but I was doing okay, so I soldiered on, thinking, I can always change my mind. My nurse was amazing and kept me on track. Very quickly the contractions picked up pace. No place was comfortable really, but I found myself swaying by the bed or propped up on all fours on the bed most of the time. The tub helped some, laying down was awful as was squatting or sitting on anything. At 3 o’clock I was 6-7cms, so I called the photographer who had a 30 minute drive and I got back into the tub. Things started to get rough. Rough enough to wake up my husband with my “noisiness.” I saw the photographer walk in, but I didn’t even really acknowledge her presence.

I looked at my nurse from the tub and said, “if I am not 8 cm, I need an epidural.” She nodded, offered that if I wasn’t making progress that “maybe a dose of IV meds and I’ll start your fluid bolus and call the anesthesiologist if that’s what you really want.”

At 3:56 I got out of the tub, I was 8 cm and was now very internally motivated to push. She called the doc and another nurse came to the room. I remember seeing the resident come in and garb up, and I was pushing… on all fours at the end of the bed. I told them he was coming, and they tried to get me to lay down but I physically could not, there was a baby in the way of me moving anywhere. I told the nurse again that he was coming and I remember seeing the resident plastered against the back wall in her sterile gown. With one big push at 4:07 am, my wonderful (and liar, liar pants on fire nurse who was never going to let me get an epidural 😉 ) nurse helped me deliver my third little boy.

The actual physician arrived a few minutes later, LOL. We had known since finding out this baby was a boy that he would be named Lukkes (pronounced like Lucas) because that was my husband’s mother’s maiden name. We had still not agreed on a middle name. After Jesse watched me deliver our son without any pain medication, he deemed it my choice for the middle name, and so, Lukkes Grey was named.

He came out looking just like his older brothers, especially a clone of Thomas. Same terribly furrowed brow, wide nose and big lips, but a TON of hair in comparison to his older siblings. He was (and continues to be) perfection. He weighed 7# 12oz, was 20.5 inches long with a 14 inch head.

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By some miracle of miracles, I avoided needing any repairs – I actually suspect that he was laying OP (sunny side up) for the majority of my labor and finally turned, and BOOM, birthday. In hindsight, I am glad I didn’t have an epidural, because if he really was OP (hence my back labor and cervix that wouldn’t move anteriorly), my ability to move around likely helped him finally flip over, and if I would have gotten an epidural I would have laid in the bed, possibly extending my labor and necessitating Pitocin and who knows what else. However, if there is ever to be a 4th McMillan baby, I would likely get an epidural. Why? Because labor hurts, pain gains you nothing, you get the same baby. And why didn’t I get one this time?? I’ve thought about that a lot – I guess it was kind of a bucket list thing – had to do it once, don’t really desire to do it again.

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The older brothers have taken a liking to him, especially Jackson, who turned 4 in September. Thomas, who will be 2 on Thanksgiving day, likes the baby and is interested in him in small doses, but doesn’t grasp the permanence of this person in our family. I’ve now deemed our family the McMillan Circus, because that what most of our life feels like – truth be told, it did before, too. Lukkes is a sweet baby, but goes from zero to feisty crying – I believe that is purely a third child defense mechanism that allows him to be noticed. He’s a spitty and semi-colicky little guy – he hates burping. He is amazingly awake and alert most of the day, and sometimes at night.

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We tried on multiple attempts for the photographer to get newborn pics with him sleeping – out of 6 hours, he slept for about 45 minutes and woke up if touched. He was deemed “the naughtiest” newborn to photograph. Oh well.. these are a few that we did get (creds to sara dawn photography for birth and newborn photos).

 

So, here we are. McMillan, party of five. Which means my posts will likely become even less frequent, but, if I have anything meaningful to share, I’ll pop in from time to time 🙂

changes

well, hello.

Why haven’t I posted anything in 4ish months? Eh, life is busy and blogging certainly isn’t on the top of my priority list. But it does feel nice to come back to this little virtual space and catch myself up. So, a couple things…

  1. My mother in law finished her 12th cycle of chemotherapy this week. Prayers for a clear scan later this month and then just surveillance.
  2. I am starting the 8th week of a 8-week long “lifestyle” challenge this week. I am not one to sign up for such challenges as my self-control is poor, but this has been good for me. I have definitely eaten more intentionally than ever before. I have stopped online shopping for the most part. I am flossing more regularly – all good things that I hope to continue on. And with Lent starting last week, I can carry some of these lifestyle changes forward intentionally, as well as logging out of Facebook again. It is good to take a social media break (…the irony as I write that in a blog post, I know).
  3. Last week was my last week at the oncology clinic. For as much as it has taught me… about oncology, the fragility of life, the beauty of humanity, about myself and my mortality, and how to really embrace life because we never know what challenges we might be given, it is not my calling. I am starting a position at a near-by tribal clinic doing primary care. I will be their only fulltime provider, and there are definite inherent challenges with the IHS system, but I am so excited to getting back to doing primary care, having some autonomy again, and being busy on my feet. I am grateful, though, for my time with oncology, and I will forever be a different healthcare provider for it.
  4. Potty training may kill me. Jackson is 3 1/2, and we are still not there. AGGGGHHH. I just keep telling myself that surely one day it will stick and he won’t pee his pants in college (on a regular basis).
  5. Thomas is just plain old crazy. Crazy funny for the most part. What a ham. He was put on this earth to brighten the lives around him.
  6. Our household just keeps keeping on. Our home looks like tornado wreckage most of the time. Our bedtime routine is a mess. My bathroom is a mess. But we are generally a happy, loved group, and I could ask God for no more.

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take care of yourself

Life has gotten bus(ier) and time has slipped past me and suddenly it’s been a while. This weekend Thomas will be 8 months old. I’ll do a “quarterly” update on him then – a 6-8 month update.

Recently my husband joined the local volunteer fire department while also functioning as the only technician in his work exchange, as his fellow tech had gotten a promotion and the replacement hadn’t been hired yet. Needless to say we saw very very little of eachother at the beginning of the summer – he had fireman’s classes 2 evenings per week and was working late the other nights to keep up. He’s now passed his written exam and we have another couple months before the practices start up again for his fire training. And, finally, the new tech was hired and took some of the work strain. Now I see him at a relatively decent time most nights. Anyway, long story short, I was  basically single-momming it for a couple months and couldn’t sqeaze in blogging. But that’s not what this post is about. This post is about cancer. Again.

Previous to my oncology job I did family practice – very general wellness, acute, and chronic care. In my training I learned there are certain times you go hunting for cancer. Luckily, our country has some decent cancer screening processes in place – mammograms, colonoscopies, even low-dose CT’s of the chest for long-time smokers. We know that typically finding cancer before it displays symptoms will lead to a better outcome. Sometimes this isn’t true, but commonly it is. We also know that cancer breaks the body in some common ways. It causes weight loss, fatigue, changes in lab values of the blood, persistent cough or unusual pain or bruising. When we have patients come in with these vague symptoms, we sometimes go searching for cancer, hoping we are wrong.

A little over a month ago my mother in law had been complaining to us on a phone call about her headaches and fatigue – she had just retired from her long-time job as a customer service rep and had been working part-time in a green house. She felt like the new job was just too hard on her and mentioned she was going to go to the chiropractor for her headaches. Now, I know my MIL well enough to know that she doesn’t go to the doctor very often. I also know she has a history of high blood pressure, so I told her that she should probably go to her doctor instead, since her headaches could be from uncontrolled BP. She sorta agreed. I felt like she wasn’t going to listen to me. I saw her a couple weeks later at a family reunion. She looked tired, pale, and grouchy. I was busy chasing kids and didn’t broach her health with her. 3-4 days later my husband’s sister mentioned in a text message that her mom was not very talkative at her daughter’s birthday party, but that her “iron was low.” I replied, “good, she must have went to the doctor.” My SIL said, “No, she went to the chiropractor, but she tried to give blood and they wouldn’t let her because her iron was an 8 or something.”

Now, let me pause and speak to the fact that the common person is fairly medically uneducated – my MIL especially so. She goes to the doctor about once per year to get her pills refilled. She can’t tell you the names of the medications she takes. She doesn’t seem to care AT ALL what type of diet she eats or if she ever exercises. And I had to badger her into a mammogram a few years ago after she turned 60. I told her to have a colonoscopy, too, but that was far too much for her.

Back to the text message convo with my sister in law. After I read that my MIL’s hemoglobin (they don’t measure your “iron level” routinely, FYI) was an 8 (it should be at least a 12-13 for an adult female), I promptly panicked. I explained with successive quick messages that she needed to get into the clinic NOW, that anemia is not a solo disease, but the symptom of a disease and that she needed a colonoscopy ASAP because in someone her age colon cancer was a very common culprit.

She went to the clinic. She saw a nurse practitioner who she had never seen before, but who prayed with her, which meant so much to my MIL. The next week she had a diagnostic colonoscopy – she did NOT want to. She asked me why, what they were looking for. Again, speaking to the medically uneducated nature of the common person, she wasn’t even sure what this was for and so I told her, but I didn’t say the word cancer – she was already worried, no reason to make it worse. Last Wednesday my husband and I waited in the room with her husband, who is not the most supportive person in any situation to anyone. And the surgeon confirmed what I already knew deep down – she has colon cancer, and the tumor was the source of her blood loss. She had scans completed that, THANK THE GOOD, GOOD LORD, did not show metastatic involvement to the liver or lungs, but that lymph nodes are likely involved. She has a colon resection scheduled next week, and if there is cancer detected in the lymph nodes she will be recommended to complete chemotherapy, which she will HATE and probably not tolerate very well. Anyway, please keep her in your thoughts in prayers next Friday – pray for a safe surgery and a good path report, or at least grace and mercy in acceptance of whatever the results show.

And for the love, take advantage of your annual physical exams and labs and get a colonoscopy starting at age 50 (these wellness things should be included at no additional cost with most insurances with the ACA changes). She’s 64 and never had one. This cancer has likely been there for at least 2 years, as it turns out she’s been losing weight and having symptoms of anemia for that long. Colon cancer grows slowly most of the time, I just wish we could have caught it sooner. But, like I said, it’s not metastatic now, so we’re counting blessings for that. Life is short, take care of yourself.

 

Mortality

Death, the death of others, has never really bothered me. My first experience with death was my grandmother’s. She was someone I saw nearly every day. I was 5, almost 6, and it was 8 days after my baby brother was born. She only met him once while he was still in the hospital, and was killed in a head on car accident a few days later. I remember being sad, but more than anything being concerned about my dad’s sadness. It broke my heart to watch him hurt and grieve his mother’s abrupt death. But even then, it didn’t scare me. It just seemed like a thing that happened.

When I was in school no one died. I went to a small school, and the last death of a student happened the year before I entered kindergarten, the next happed 14 years later, the year after I graduated.

Then I went into nursing. I still vividly remember the first death I encountered as a nurse’s assistant in a nursing home, Ruth’s death. But deaths in the nursing home were often a sweet release of a soul trapped in a broken body. They were often blessings.

I lost elderly aunts and uncles. I graduated from nursing school and experienced it from the perspective of a nurse in a hospital. I saw traumatic deaths. Tragic, tragic unexpected deaths. Slow, hospice-type deaths. Stillbirths…SIDS…

I cried. I got mad. But in the end, we all die. And I never really, really took it personally.

 

Then 10 months ago I took a position in oncology. My opinion of cancer has generally been a distant one. The only close cancer death was my very good friend’s mother when I was 10, but she handled it with such grace that I sometimes forgot her mother had died. And then she herself battled lymphoma, but she crushed it, like it was no big thing. So it was no big thing. I didn’t really understand cancer… I mean, I got the pathophysiologic meaning of cancer, but I did not get what it did to people’s actual lives. And even in starting my new position providing care for these patients, I still didn’t get it. I knew that these metastatic cancer patients would die. And it would be sad. But I didn’t really get it.

And then, I met my first patient born in the same decade as myself. It felt as though I was punched in the stomach. I suddenly felt my mortality deeply. I developed a new sense of anxiety that I had not ever possessed. It was my mortality talking.

You see, cancer happens to children, yes. And “old” people, yes. But when you are 20 or 30-something you are busy. Busy getting educated, planning, married, procreating, moving, planning some more. You are worried about student loans and mortgages and car seat safety profiles. Consumed by your children’s well-beings, maybe even your parents’ well-beings, but you trust your body will carry on at status quo until you babies grow up and graduate and you have time for cancer. It is a time when your boobs are for breastfeeding. Your uterus for baking babies. And your everything else needs to just do its damn job. Like digest chocolate and process caffeine and get you through each day.

But it’s not always so. Even at 30-something your body can betray you. Your DNA can mess up, your cells can break, and those broken cells can spread around and try to kill you. Likely, you won’t know it’s happening. You’ll be tired because your life makes you tired. And you’ll lose weight and cheer because, well, thank God it’s a miracle. Except then there’s a weird symptom or sign. A doctor appointment. And a complete workup. And panicking. Suddenly you are smacked in the face with your mortality.

I have spent sooooo much time ponding my mortality since I saw the 1980’s-born patient. The patient with little children. And a spouse that is trying to keep their shit together, but if you look them in the eyes, they are freaking out. They are bartering with God. They are trying not to imagine life without the person they love, the person they picked and planned a life with, but simultaneously planning how the hell they are going to raise those precious babies without one of their parents there.

I wonder which is worse… having metastatic cancer, or being married to it? Dying or being left behind? I have no idea. I don’t want to know.

That patient opened my eyes to what was really happening in front of me to all of my patients. The young, the older. The prepared and those getting through each day in a veil of denial. We are all dying. Some of us very, very insidiously. Some of us glaringly obviously. Some of us tragically fast. Each body’s life ends in death. I have faith about heaven… but I have small babies, and my fear of death right now is massive. The fear of my husband’s death is massive. I don’t want to leave them without a mommy or a daddy… at least not until they are capable adults. And worse yet, I cannot fathom either of them leaving us. But it could happen. It does happen… every single day… to someone else.

 

I’m sorry for such a somber post. But if you kept reading until the end, please take a moment to consider your life in all of its glory. Tell people you love them, forgive people who have wronged you and apologize to those you’ve wronged. Life is short, sometimes so very short. And you will die. And I will die. But I want to go knowing I’ve done all I can in this life. And I want the same for you.