Spectra S2 Vs Medela Pump In Style (2019) Compared and Reviewed

by Ayesha Ahmed |

Once you’ve decided that you are going to breastfeed your child, you should start planning as to how you can make this journey easier. Pumping can and will be of immense help. The Medela Pump In Style Advanced (PISA) and Spectra S2 are the most selected breast pumps. When I compare the Sectra S2 to the Medela, the Spectra gets my recommendation because of its quiet operation, gentleness, and ease of cleaning due to the “closed” system design.

If you go with a Spectra, the Spectra S1 has a rechargeable battery which can be more convenient than the corded S2 depending on your situation.

Best Electric Breast Pumps

ProductGrade
Spectra Baby USA S2 Hospital Grade Double/single Breast PumpA
Medela Sonata Smart Breast PumpB+
Medela Pump in Style Advanced Breast PumpB
Spectra Baby USA – S1 Hospital Grade Double/Single Electric Breast PumpB
Philips AVENT Double Electric Comfort Breast PumpC

Comparing the Spectra S2 to the Medela Pump in Style

Compared to the Medela PISA, the Spectra S2 pump is a favorite of lactation experts with a gentle emulation of infant suckling by a breast massage during expression. It has a very low decibel level for quiet and discreet pumping operation, as well as backflow protection to limit contamination by bacteria. Both are double pumps and the Medela has a battery.

 

Spectra S2 Vs Medela Pump In Style Breast Pumps Compared

Your pumping needs

If you plan to work or be away from your little one for extended periods of time, then aim at pumping and storing milk starting right after you’ve given birth to make sure you have sufficient stash. Not only that but while away keep pumping to ensure your supply doesn’t decline. There are great tips and tricks that you can use to store your liquid gold and going forward you will find out, breast milk can be stored for a couple hours to up till a few months.

Now you will be questioning which breast pump you should invest in. There are single, double, manual and electric pumps in the market. An electric one makes the most sense since it’s time efficient than a single or a manual, it’s a handsfree option so you can multi-task and it’s rhythmic, so you will have controlled suction to help get the milk flowing.

No matter which pump you’ll need, we have a breast pump for you! See our Best Breast Pump article for a full breakdown of all the top contenders.

Single or Double pump

Both Spectra S2 and Medela pumps can be used as a single or a double pump. That’s a great advantage to have especially if you’re breastfeeding and pumping at the same time. Or if you need to express milk more from one side.

A double breast pump will be a lot less time consuming and will get you done in half the time a single does obviously. If you have twins or are pumping at work, a double will suit your needs a lot more.

Both pumps are hands-free and if you invest in a pumping bra it is going to change your world. You can multi-task while you’re pumping So whether you’re a working mom or a mom on the go, having the ability to do other things while you pump is a huge win in our world.

Image of the Medela Pump in Style Advanced Breast Pump with On the Go Tote

Closed system

You’re probably wondering what in the world is a closed or an open pumping system. The difference is primarily about how each is cleaned and trust me it’s important.

A closed pumping system does not allow backflow of milk back in the tubing or the motor. It does not affect motor performance and ensures great hygiene. Because of that, multiple users can use this pump, though I normally discourage people from sharing pumps. It won’t be as hygienically risky with a closed system as it would be with an open one. Not much cleaning of the tubing needed either.

An open system, however, is quite the opposite and does allow for backflow. Moms tend to let it run on its own after they’ve finished up with pumping. That lets any excess milk in the system to run cleanly without leaving any leftover in the motor. It is still highly recommended to sterilize and clean the tubing frequently to prevent it from getting moldy.

Medela PISA is an open system pump so it does require some upkeep. Spectra S2 is a closed system so that’s not as high maintenance.


See some of the science behind selecting a breast pump.


Health issue

PISA is an open system which means that there is backflow of milk in the tubing which causes moisture build-up causing mold to grow in the tubing. I cannot even begin to imagine the horror on seeing mold in a device that is providing nourishment for your baby. This is a real issue that Medela should address and primarily the reason I recommend Spectra over Medela.

The solution Medela has provided for that is to remove the tubes from the connectors and let the pump run for a few minutes like I mentioned above. After pumping, nobody wants to do anything extra even if it’s for a couple minutes.

Adjustable suction speed

Spectra S2 is a hospital grade breast pump which means its suction is great. If you’re on the lower end of milk supply, then power pumping with S2 will be sure to help boost up your supply to an extent.

Spectra starts with a ‘massage’ that stimulates your letdown reflex to get the milk flowing like it would be activated when a baby latches on. The suction speed is short and shallow. Following that, it goes into the ‘expression’ mode which is a slower, stronger suction; imitating how baby nurses. As the speed is adjustable, you can go back and forth from ‘massage’ mode to ‘expression’ mode until you find a speed that works well with your flow.

Medela has adjustable speed and vacuum but you cannot adjust them separately. It’s one nob and increasing the suction means increasing the speed. So limited adjustments as compared to the S2.

Image of the Spectra Baby USA - S2 Hospital Grade Double/Single Electric Breast Pump

Noise-level

Many moms prefer to pump at night as well when the baby is asleep. It helps with your liquid gold stash especially if you’re going to be out the next day. The downside of pumping at night can be the noise levels of the pump. The constant ‘chugging’ sounds can wake up your sleeping baby or even your partner when all you want to do is pump in peace.

Spectra is quiet in comparison with Medela. You can comfortably pump in the same room as your baby the lights turned off. I mention the lights since Spectra has this awesome feature of a nightlight that will let you see the pump’s display and control buttons in case you need to make any adjustments. There are two settings so you can adjust it according to what works for you.

Medela is not so silent. I remember having to cover the pump with a blanket or pillow just to be able to stifle some of the sounds. Medela did wake the baby up many times. And I don’t mean just the infant.

Comfortable to use

The issue many moms face with Medela is that the suction leads to painful pumping and sore nipples. You have to be extremely careful of how you place your nipple in the flange otherwise you may end up in pain, with no milk. Spectra gives out a fluttering feeling like you would get when you’re feeding the baby yourself. It’s gentle, super comfortable and much more efficient at pumping milk.

Accessories

The bottles and nipples that come with Medela are actually of very good quality. I’ve boiled and sterilized them multiple times without losing any traction to the threading of the bottle.

Spectra’s bottles are a complete miss, unfortunately. The threading is so little that there is a risk of the flanges coming off the bottle if you happen to move around mid-pump. Not only that but if you sterilize in boiling water, the bottle tends to lose it shape and ‘sturdiness’.

The valve that comes with Spectra doesn’t seem to have a very long life. Especially since removing it requires giving it a good strong pull which doesn’t help its case. You can, however, use Medela’s valve and membrane with Spectra’s kit and that should work fine.

Spectra has the breast shield and the flange as a single piece as opposed to two different units. Not only does that make cleaning such a pain, it also means that in case you need to go up or down a size, you would need to buy the whole unit. You can purchase different breast shields and flanges separately with Medela. It’s easier to purchase single units instead of buying the entire kits.

However, that problem can be solved if you buy ‘Spectra to Medela’ adapters. It will let you use the Medela flanges, bottles with your Spectra pump. Needless to say, Medela accessories are of a much higher quality than Spectra’s.

Convenience

Medela comes with a battery pack which means you can use it anywhere even if you don’t have access to a power outlet. Much more convenient for pumping outside of your home.Unfortunately, Spectra S2 currently does not have a battery pack but you can separately purchase a car adapter if you wish to pump in the car.

S2 is lighter and weight and easier to carry with you where ever you go. Plus it’s much more affordable than any other hospital grade pump.

Image of the Spectra Baby USA S2 Hospital Grade Double/single Breast Pump by Spectra Baby USA

Pros

Spectra S2

  • Closed system
  • Hospital grade suction – helps out with low milk supply
  • Varying frequency and suction on both ‘massage’ and ‘expression’ mode
  • Affordable
  • Gentle and essentially painless pumping – has more of a natural feel
  • Not as noisy as other pumps
  • Nightlight that lets you see the display and control in the dark
  • Light
  • With the use of adapters can use parts from Medela

Medela PISA

  • Great for travel with a battery adapter
  • Excellent quality accessories (bottles, flanges, shields)
  • Shields and flanges are easy to clean and available
  • Comes with many accessories including an ice pack, 4 bottles, cooler bag etc

Cons

Spectra S2

  • Breast shield and flange are one single unit
  • Inferior quality bottles
  • No battery option
  • Relatively new brand to the USA so limited availability

Medela PISA

  • Open system pump that lets milk into the tubing – Mold issue!
  • Suction is not as great as the hospital grade pumps
  • Has 120 V motor which means in other countries you will have to use the battery
  • Heavy
  • Noisy
  • Fewer pumping speed options

Reviews

Here are what people are saying about these breast pumps:

Spectra S2

4.8 stars, 468 reviews – Target.com

4.0 stars, 4 reviews – Walmart.com

Medela PISA

4.7  stars, 788 reviews – Target.com

4.6 stars, 36 reviews – Walmart.com

4 stars, 945 reviews – Toysrus.com

What do I recommend?

Despite being a relatively new brand in the market, Spectra has all the qualities that would help a nursing mother. It was made to compete against Medela and it certainly played well. It’s more gentle, provides better suction, isn’t as noisy and best of all it’s lighter on the pocket. It does have a few bottle quality issues but with an adapter, you can easily use other compatible ones. All in all, I believe you will get a lot of pumping cycles from Spectra S2.

Ayesha Ahmed
I'm a stay at home mom to a 2 year old daughter. My background is in consumer behavior so I'm super critical and wide angled when it comes to making baby product purchases. Unless they are so darn cute that all logic escapes my mind:)

Comments 5

  1. The Spectra S1 is the same as the model reviewed here (S2) but with a rechargeable battery. It’s s little more expensive but addresses that con of the S2.

  2. I used the PISA with my first but requested a Spectra S2 for my second child. I will say I literally never had an issue with straight up milk or mold in the tubing, although there would be condensation. It is really not that difficult to let the pump continue to run for a minute while you cap off your milk bottles and adjust your shirt. I also never found the noise level to be an issue although the s2 is undeniably quieter.

    I do find the advice to begin pumping immediately to be pretty irresponsible. Women should consult with a lactation consultant regarding pumping; it can be risky to pump too often in the early weeks as it can affect your supply.

    1. Since you had the experience of both overall which would you say is the best? I will be going back to work right away so I will need to pump frequently at work. Thank you!

  3. I called Medela to ask about this “open” vs “closed” statement – and had a detailed explanation provided because this concerned me… you may want to fact check. The separation that prevents the transfer of air and fluids can either be at the pump or at the kit. For the PISA, it’s at the kit to maintain suction performance while keeping it compact. According to the FDA, no pump should be shared, because the inherent nature of pumps is that it pulls air and bacteria into the system, and the separations do not entirely protect from bacterial transfer.

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