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Spectra vs. Medela: The Ultimate Guide To Choosing A Pump

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Spectra Vs Medela the ultimate guide to choosing a pump -

When I was pregnant, my friends gave me the advice to order a breast pump as soon as possible. My insurance covered a pump and I had a difficult time figuring out which pump would work the best for me. After pumping for my daughter for 12 months, now I have a good idea of what is important when choosing a breast pump.

So, what is the best pump when comparing the Spectra to the Medela? The Spectra S2 is better for new moms when comparing the Spectra S2 and Medela Pump In Style Advanced. The Spectra has a nightlight, digital display timer, and a gentle sucking pattern that closely mimics a baby’s suck. The Medela has stronger suction but the features on the Spectra make for a better pumping session.

The Spectra S2 and Medela Pump In Style Advanced both have some great features. The debate between the two pumps is heavily contested between my friends that have used these two pumps.

I prefer pumping with the Spectra. However, the choice between the Spectra and the Medela PISA may come down to which features are most important to you when you are choosing your pump.

Here is the ultimate guide comparing all of the most important features in these breast pumps.

Comparison Based On Price

In terms of price, the Spectra S2 is typically more affordable than the Medela Pump In Style Advanced (PISA). This is primarily because the Medela PISA includes several accessories in addition to the pump.

If you are paying out of pocket for either of these pumps, this may make a difference in your decision. However, the price may not be a dealbreaker because many insurance plans in the United States fully cover the cost of both pumps.

You can check out the current price of the Spectra S2 here.

The current price for the Medela PISA is available here.

Differences In The Letdown Mode Settings

Both the Spectra S2 and Medela PISA pumps have a letdown phase. This phase is what you use to encourage your milk to start flowing.

However, there is a difference between the two pumps in the letdown phase.

The Medela PISA has faster speed during this phase. It also has a built-in timer, where the pump starts off in letdown mode and then will automatically switch to expression mode after 2 minutes. You can also hit the letdown button at any time during your pump session for an additional 2 minutes.

The Spectra pump also has a faster speed during the letdown phase. It also allows you to adjust the vacuum strength to what is comfortable or works the best for your body.

You will need to manually switch the pump between letdown and expression phase. The good thing about this is that you can be in letdown mode as long as is comfortable for you. The drawback is that you need to remember to adjust the settings when you want to switch from letdown mode to expression mode.

Differences In The Expression Mode Settings

There is also a difference between the two pumps in the expression phase. This is the setting where you pump the majority of the milk.

When the Medela is in expression mode, you turn a dial to increase both the speed and vacuum simultaneously. When the Spectra is in expression mode, you have the option to adjust the speed and vacuum separately.

This means that you can use a slower speed and high vacuum setting on the Spectra that is not possible with the single knob setting on the Medela PISA.

Some moms feel that the Medela has a stronger suck while pumping. Other moms say that the suckling pattern of the Spectra feels more gentle and more like nursing while they are pumping.

The Spectra can be a better choice if you have sensitive skin or sensitive nipples because it is more gentle. This will be a personal preference.

If you have pumped in the past and you responded well to a strong suck, then the Medela PISA may be a better option.

If you are a first-time mom, and you do not know if you prefer a stronger suck or a more gentle suck, I would recommend going with the Spectra. This is because the Spectra can be fine-tuned to your preferred level for speed and suction.

Ease Of Use

When you are brand new to pumping, the settings on the Medela PISA can be slightly easier to use. This is because there are fewer options for the expression and letdown settings mentioned above.

The Spectra may be slightly more confusing at first because there are more options. However, once the pump has been used a few times, both the Spectra and the Medela PISA are equally easy to use.

Differences In Noise Level

The Spectra wins this hands-down. The Spectra S2 is much quieter and gives off more of a humming sound. I have been able to pump with the Spectra at night in the bedroom.

The sound of the pump in the bedroom did not disturb my husband or my daughter while they were sleeping. The Medela PISA has a much louder, mechanical sound. It is more difficult to be discreet while pumping with the Medela PISA.

Finding Spare and Replacement Parts

When pumping, it is important to have spare parts and replacement parts easily available. If a pump part breaks, you will need to have a backup plan so you do not miss a pumping session and become uncomfortable.

Similarly, if you are working and you forget a pump part at home, you will be very uncomfortable if you are unable to pump because you are missing your parts.

I have found replacement parts to be widely available for the Medela PISA. I’ve seen them at Target, Buy Buy Baby, and at Walmart. This means that you can purchase a pump part and continue pumping the same day. Medela PISA parts are also available online through their website and Amazon.

Spectra does not have spare parts readily available in store. Spare parts can be purchased through their website and through Amazon, but you will need to wait for shipping.

Because it is so critical to continue pumping on a schedule, I always had a few sets of spare parts on hand for my Spectra. I also had a manual hand pump which was a good backup.

Even though Medela PISA parts are widely available in stores, it is still a good idea to have a backup set of parts on hand. This will prevent you from needing to run out to the store at the last minute.

Closed Pumping System Vs. Open Pumping System

A closed pumping system means that the pump has a mechanism to prevent milk from flowing through the tubing. Once the milk is in the tubing it can potentially back up into the pump motor.

An open pumping system means that no such mechanism exists to prevent milk from getting into the pump motor. If milk gets into the motor, then it could potentially be a breeding ground for bacteria and mold, leading to contaminated milk.

The Spectra is a closed system because it includes backflow protectors and milk does not back up into the tubing. The Medela PISA is an open system and does not have a mechanism to prevent milk from getting into the pump motor.

I haven’t seen milk flow all the way back to the motor, but I have seen milk and condensation get into the Medela tubing and start to grow mold. Seeing mold in the Medela pump tubing was horrifying. Medela even states in their instructions to carefully inspect pump tubing for mold prior to every use.

I was disheartened when I saw moldy tubing because pumping is hard work, and I felt like I needed to throw out the milk in case it was contaminated. The closed system is one of the main reasons why I prefer the Spectra pump.

Size, Weight, and Portability

The Spectra pump is larger and round, which can be a slightly awkward shape. However, it makes up for this by having a handle and being a lighter weight pump. The Medela PISA is smaller and compact when it is removed from the tote or backpack. However, it weighs more than the spectra.

Both pumps are easy to carry back and forth to work. I’ve taken my Spectra on three round trip flights within the United States, and also on quite a few road trips.

In order to power the pumps, both of the pumps include a wall charger. Medela manufactures a car charger and battery pack for the PISA.

Spectra does not manufacture these products and will direct you to the S1 pump if you need to pump when you are not near an outlet. The Spectra S1 pump has a built-in battery. There are also off-brand car chargers and battery packs available to make the Spectra S2 pump more portable.

Pump Accessories

The Medela PISA includes a few extra accessories in the price of the pump. Typically a tote bag or backpack, cooler, and battery pack are included with the pump. This is in addition to the flanges, bottles, and tubing which come standard with the pump.

The Spectra does not include these accessories but does include flanges, bottles, and tubing when the pump is purchased. These parts are necessary in order to use the pump.

If additional accessories are needed like a pump bag, cooler, and battery pack, then they will need to be purchased separately.

This wasn’t much of a drawback for me because I already had a cooler. I also ended up purchasing a great pump bag that was large enough to fit my pump, laptop, and lunch when I needed to pump at work.

Extra Features On The Pump

The Spectra has a lot of nice extra features that the Medela PISA is lacking. The Spectra includes a digital display with a timer so you know how long you’ve pumped.

It also includes a nightlight which is great for pumping at night in the dark. The Spectra has a bottle holder on the back so you have a secure place to set your bottle full of freshly pumped milk.

The Spectra will automatically shut off after 30 minutes. I found this useful. Sometimes while pumping I would be busy working, and I did not have to remember to constantly set alarms and timers on my phone.

The Medela PISA doesn’t include any of these features. You will likely be setting timers and alarms on your phone in order to track your pumping sessions.

Pump Parts

The final major difference between the two pumps is in the bottles that attach to the flanges and the valves that come standard with the pump.

The Spectra flanges connect directly to wide mouth bottles and use duckbill valves. The Medela PISA flanges connect directly to narrow mouth bottles and use valves with a membrane.

I have directly connected my Spectra flanges to wide-mouth Avent bottles for pumping. I have also directly connected my Medela flanges to narrow-mouth Dr. Brown bottles for pumping.

The Spectra duckbill valves are my favorite. They provide better suction and seem to be more durable and last longer. The Medela valves are tiny and can be easily lost or torn while cleaning. They also seemed to lose suction for me more quickly than the Spectra duckbills.

These differences can be easily remedied. There are hacks to interchange the bottles and valves between the two pumps depending on your preference.

Similarities Between Spectra S2 and Medela PISA

Both the Spectra S2 and the Medela PISA pumps allow double pumping or single pumping. This means that you have a choice to pump one breast at a time or to pump both breasts simultaneously. I always double-pumped to save time.

Both companies provide great customer service and are very responsive. I never had an issue with my pumps, but from the moms I spoke with who had an issue with their pump, a replacement was sent to them right away if needed.

The Spectra and Medela PISA are also both very durable and lasted for an entire year of pumping.


I personally preferred using the Spectra during my pumping journey. When I asked my friends, the ones who used the Spectra were generally happy across the board. The reviews were a little more polarized on the Medela PISA. Either they loved it or they hated it.

I hope that this helps you make a decision when selecting a breast pump.

Summary of Features: Spectra S2 and Medela Pump In Style Advanced (PISA)

 Spectra S2Medela Pump In Style Advanced (PISA)
Letdown Mode SettingVariable suction during letdown mode– 2 minute timer


– Adjustment on suction isn’t available for letdown mode

Expression Mode SettingSuction & speed are customizable based on user preferenceSuction & speed are combined
Suction– More customization to vary the speed and suction


– Can be more confusing when you are first starting out

– Feels more like nursing and may feel more comfortable to some women

– Speed and intensity on a single knob


– Can be more intense sucking

– Some women prefer the intense suction to draw milk out

Sensitive skin or sensitive nipplesMore gentle– Stronger suction


– Can be uncomfortable for sensitive nipples

Ease Of UseSlightly more complicatedSlightly easier
Noise LevelWins by far, quieter and more of a humming soundMuch louder, mechanical sounding
Spare Parts And Replacement PartsCan buy on Spectra’s website or on AmazonCan buy parts at Amazon, Walmart, Target, Buy Buy Baby
Closed SystemYes, a Closed SystemNo, an Open System
SizeLarger pump; awkward shape


7.9 x 7.9 x 6.7 inches

Smaller / compact, easier to tote around
Weight3.3 lbs6.8 lbs
Power – Wall AdapterComes with a wall adapterComes with wall adapter
Power – Car AdapterAftermarket car adapter is availableMedela brand can be purchased
Power – Battery PackAftermarket battery pack and rechargeable batteries are availableMedela brand can be purchased
Accessories Included– Flanges and Bottles


– Need to purchase pump bag and cooler separately

– Flanges and Bottles


– Pump bag, cooler, battery pack typically included

Extra Features– Digital display


– Timer

– Nightlight

– Automatic shut off after 30 minutes

– Bottle holder

BottleWide mouthNarrow mouth
ValveDuckbill valveFlap style
Customer ServiceQuick to respondQuick to respond
DurabilityLasts at least a yearLasts at least a year
Single And Double PumpingYesYes
ReviewsGreat reviews across the boardMixed bag – love it or hate it

Recommended Reading

  1. Find your perfect pump bag – Sarah Wells Vs. JuJuBe Pump Bags (Best Stylish Pump Bags)
  2. Check out this article for all of my best pumping tips – 17 Best Pumping Tips for Beginners
  3. Ever wonder how many calories you burn by pumping or breastfeeding?

If you found this post useful, be sure to pin it for later!

image of Medela Pump In Style Advanced (Medela PISA) and  Spectra s2 breast pumps. copyright 2019

Disclaimer: This post is not sponsored. I purchased the Spectra S2 and Medela PISA pumps for my personal use. All opinions are my own.

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