In this post, we will look at two of the most popular breast pumps on the market: The Spectra s2 and the Medela Pump in Style Advanced (PISA) breast pumps.
They differ significantly in features, performance, and cost. One is a high-performing and economical purchase, the other is a complete breast pumping kit with features galore – but it is much more expensive.
Read on to find out which breast pump best fits your needs and budget.
Spectra S2 vs Medela Pump in Style: Quick Summary
You can sum up the difference between the spectra s2 and the Medela Pump in Style breast pump with the following points:
Buy the Medela Pump in Style – if you need to be able to pump anywhere, any time, are not worried about the budget (and have slightly stronger arms – it is much heavier!).
Buy the Spectra S2 – if you plan on pumping at home or always near a power outlet, and want to save some money (and slightly weaker arms).
Spectra S2 and Medela PISA Differences
The following section will summarize where each breast pump outperforms the other. This will enable you to look at the performance criteria that you value most when making your buying decision.
As a starting point, count the gold medals in the side by side comparison below that matters to you.
Hygiene (Opened Vs Closed System)
The Spectra S2 uses a closed system. This means that there is backflow protection between the collection container and pump motor. This keeps the quality of your milk pure, prevents potential contamination, and makes it much easier to clean.
The Medela Pump In Style operates with an open system. Without a barrier to keep your milk contained, moisture can build up in the tubes leading to the pump motor, and if left unnoticed, mold can begin to build up.
However, an open system breast pump is fine to use as long as you clean all breast pump parts meticulously. It is recommended that you boil the tubes between uses to prevent mold growth.
The FDA and renowned lactation consultants also recommend that these types of pumps shouldn’t be shared by multiple moms due to that contamination risk. If the user ever experiences an infection you may need to replace parts completely.
Portability (Battery Power)
The Medela breast pump includes an option to run on 8x AA batteries. While I would prefer a breast pump with a rechargeable battery pack so you don’t have to keep buying them, compared to the S2 this is the better option.
The Spectra S2 has no battery option at all and can only ever be used with an outlet. You can upgrade to the Spectra S1 if you need this function, but this will negate the cost savings of buying the cheaper S2 model.
So if your lifestyle requires you to be able to pump anywhere, any time then the Medela wins out here in terms of portability.
However, you could supplement with a manual breast pump if your mobile pumping experience will be limited.
One of the reasons that the Medela PISA costs so much more is the broad range of inclusions. This includes a breast pump bag as standard.
You can choose from three different bag styles, and a quirk of each is whether the breast pump is built into the bag itself, or removable:
- On-the-Go Tote (built-in) – The bag looks like a standard black tote bag, but one that your pump is built into. It also comes equipped with bottle holders and pockets inside that can easily hold the tubing.
- Backpack (built-in)- Great for those moms who like to be hands-free. After all, you have enough to handle when you are carrying your little bundle.
- Metro (removable)- You also get bonus items included with the Metro, including two PerfectFit shield sizes (24 and 27 mm), a work surface, and mesh storage bags.
The Metro is probably my favorite. The built-in options can be convenient but it is nice to have the option to cut things out when the bag is too bulky, or you just want to pack the pump into a suitcase.
The Spectra S2 does not include a bag so you will have to buy this separately. Although, the cost savings of the unit does allow you to buy a breast pump bag of your choice and still have change!
But for the purpose of our comparison, that’s a win for Medela.
While the Medela has the battery pack and is the most portable, it is also far heavier than the Spectra.
You probably do not want to be lugging around a heavy pump if you travel on public transport a lot. It can be inconvenient. But if you drive everywhere then it is easy to leave in the trunk of your car.
If you are a frequent flyer then you will also have to be aware of the weight of the Medela in your carry-on bag. Some airlines charge for additional or overweight bags and the Medela breast pump could use up more than half your allowance (8-9 lbs).
The Spectra S2 weighs only 2.5 lbs… So an easy choice here.
Spectra S2 and Medela PISA Similarities
The following categories we feel are less important to your buying decision as performance is very similar for both breast pumps.
We have declared a winner for some of these based on the specs alone. But in practice, you would hardly notice a difference between the two.
Natural Feel and Pump Efficiency
Breast pumps need to mimic your baby’s sucking pattern to be most effective. This includes:
- A nursing baby begins with strong, rapid sucks (about 2 per second). This triggers your body’s letdown reflex, which tells your breasts to release their milk.
- After the breast milk reaches max flow, your baby’s sucking will slow down, becoming more drawn out as she is receiving and swallowing milk
The Spectra S2 employs Natural Nursing Technology, which includes massage mode settings. It operates at 70 cycles per minute and the vacuum level is not as strong as it is in expression mode.
Similarly, the Medela pump has a patented 2-Phase Expression Technology that uses the Stimulation Phase to initiate milk letdown (the equivalent of the massage mode setting).
Both do a great job at getting your milk to max flow almost as quickly as your baby does and keeps it flowing quickly and efficiently as it switches between settings to phase 2: Expression Mode. If you were comparing the Spectra vs Medela on this key area of performance you will find them hard to split.
The standard unit of measuring vacuum pressure is in millimeters of mercury (mm/Hg), which is “a unit of pressure equal to the pressure exerted by a column of mercury 1 millimeter high at 0°C.” This is the unit used to measure a breast pump’s suction strength.
High suction speed is mostly useful for moms who have trouble expressing milk, and will not necessarily yield more breast milk per pumping session. Suction strength in the 200-300 mm/Hg range will align with your baby’s suckling strength and ensure continuous milk flow.
Both the Spectra S2 (50-280 mm/Hg) and Medela PISA (40-235 mm/Hg) have suction speed in this range, with multiple settings that will guide your body through the range for optimal performance.
It is nearly a dead heat between these two models. If you had an incredibly sharp ear you would notice the Spectra marginally quieter. The difference is small enough for it to be insignificant for your decision in most cases.
Both measure between 45 to 46 decibels (respectively), which is similar to the hum of a refrigerator.
This may still seem to be a bit noisy, especially when you are in a completely silent room.
If this is the case, you may need to consider pumping in a separate room from your sleeping baby or in the bathroom at work if you do not wish to be noticed or disturb anyone.
The Spectra S2 comes with two sizes: 24 and 28 mm (2 each). However, there are no other sizes offered by the company. You may find that other brands are compatible but this is very much trial and error.
The Medela PISA offers two sizes as standard: 24 and 27 mm. But you have the choice of five different sizes made by the company with 21, 30, and 36 mm options available from Medela.
This ensures that you can find the best fit for your size if needed. But most moms are just fine with the inclusions of either breast pump.
Single Vs Dual
If you are using an electric breast pump most likely you want to get your pumping sessions over and done with as quickly as possible.
Both the Spectra S2 plus and Medela Pump in Style Advanced come with everything you need to dual pump: two sets of tubing, two flanges, and at least two containers.
You have the option to single pump if you want, but unless you have been nursing your baby and have to even out your breast you may never single pump.
Each electric breast pump includes custom control of your settings that make them user-friendly and comfortable when pumping.
The Spectra S2 is fitted with a timer and nightlight, which are great for those late night pumping sessions. The digital display also makes it easy for you to hit the letdown button, adjust your cycle and vacuum levels.
The memory settings also allow you to replicate your pumping experience with the push of a button.
Each of the Medela PISA comes with knob speed and vacuum adjustments that also make it easy to control.
Spectra S2 Vs Medela Pump In Style
We will go into a detailed comparison for all key performance areas shortly, but here is a high level summary of who is most suitable to each breast pump.
S2 Plus Vs Pump In Style Reviews
You have now read the performance comparison, here is a review of each breast pump as a standalone product so you can get a better understanding of the experience offered by each breast pump product.
This pump is most suitable for a stay at home mom, or working mom who knows that she will have a dedicated pumping station with a power outlet handy.
The stronger maximum suction strength also makes this breast pump preferred for a mom who can struggle to trigger the letdown reflex. Remembering that the higher suction won’t lead to more milk overall.
The closed system allows for more frequent use and easier cleaning. Great for working moms with less time to spare!
The nightlight and timer are also a bonus to make those midnight pumping sessions that little bit easier.
While the lack of a carrying case and no battery option may seem like hindrances to the mom needing to pump at work, the lightweight and small size make it easy to pack and take with you (as long as you can count on an available outlet at work anyways).
- Most suited to moms who will pump at home or in the office
- Stronger potential suction power
- Nightlight and timer included
- Closed system allowing for heavier use and less maintenance
- 2x bottles included
- No custom carry case included
- No battery pack (upgrade to the S1 for this)
We have also reviewed the S1 vs the S2 model here if you wanted to go deeper into what Spectra offers..
We know that this pump does have the ability to run from batteries and you can pump anywhere you like. Just make sure you have a lot of AA batteries on hand!
You also have the most complete breast pumping kit imaginable, but you pay for the privilege. It is a hassle free way to get started though and you can still choose your style of bag.
The cooler is also handy for easy storage of milk bottles, or storage after you pump.
But all of these inclusions add up with the kit weighing in at 8-9 pounds. This may sound like a lot, but remember you have a custom carry bag that is fitted to your pump. This makes it a lot easier than it sounds.
- A pumping mom who needs to be mobile
- Custom microfiber bag options included
- Battery powered option (8x AAs)
- Cooler with contoured ice pack included keeping your breast milk safe for consumption
- 4x bottles included
- AC adapter included accommodating international outlets
- Much heavier, but the included carry bag helps with the mobility
The Medela Pump in Style is a high performing breast pump and an easy off-the-shelf option. All the bottles, and other breast pump parts included you are done the day you buy this.
But, we liked the Spectra S2 over the Medela Pump in Style due to the lower entry price and the freedom to choose your own accessories for what would add up to be a cheaper price overall.
The closed system design is also great for moms who are short on time…. Which is all of us! The speed of repetitive cleaning is better and replacement parts are easy to come by if needed.
If you don’t have the time or inclination to shop around for these things then go with the Medela Pump in Style. But hey, who doesn’t like shopping and saving some money for a more personalized pumping kit.
You will be spending a lot of time with your pumps following the birth of your baby so want to make sure you are happy with the system you choose.