Spectra vs Medela: The Pros and Cons of These Popular Pumps

Last Updated: June 10, 2024
Liesel Teen, RN-BSN

By Liesel Teen

BSN, RN, Practicing Labor and Delivery Nurse

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If there was ever a breast pump showdown, it’s this one. The great debate of Spectra vs Medela. Both are household names in the pumping space, and most insurance companies offer full coverage of them as well.

At a glance they seem pretty similar – double electric, classic-style breast pumps. They’re both popular and highly reviewed, too.

So what’s a mama to do? I’ve set out to try out and review as many different breast pumps as possible; from Willow to Elvie, Motif and more. But today, I’m here to deliver a complete Spectra vs Medela review.

Spectra vs Medela in a nutshell? I get good output with both pumps and they’re legitimately both solid options. But if I’m choosing between the two, I’m going Spectra. It’s got some additional features that push it over the edge, and it seems to be more efficient.

But there’s a lot more to it than that! Read on for a full review including pros and cons of each pump! Then decide for yourself which is the right choice for you.

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Spectra S2 breast pump review

The Spectra S2 at a glance

The Spectra S2 is a traditional, double electric pump with a closed tubing system. This means no milk or moisture can accumulate in the tubing. It’s a very well-known and popular pump, and for good reason! There’s really nothing bad to say about it.

I used this pump for my entire first breastfeeding journey and it got the job done well. If your insurance covers the Spectra and you don’t want to deal with reimbursement or other options, I say go for it! But let’s get into the details a bit more.

What’s included with your Spectra S2

  • 1 double electric breast pump
  • 2 24 mm flanges
  • 2 28 mm flanges
  • 1 set of tubing
  • 2 duckbill valves
  • 2 backflow protectors
  • 2 wide neck storage bottles (with nipples)
  • 1 12-volt AC power adapter

How to use Spectra S2: My settings

I always think it’s helpful to hear how other people use their pumps, especially as a first-time mom. A few of you even messaged me to tell me you pumped way more than usual by following my tips! Hooray!

Okay so here’s how I use the Spectra S2:

  • Turn the pump on and turn the suction down to low (3-4)
  • Switch to fast mode, and put it on the highest reps (70) and highest suction that I can handle (typically a 4 to start)
  • I leave those settings until I let down (milk starts spraying and coming out faster)
  • Leave in let down mode go for 1-2 minutes and then I hit the bacon button! Hah, technically the massage mode. When you press this, it slows down the pump but the suction is more intense
  • Then I keep it at the lowest reps (38) but strong suction, like a 7 or 8
  • I’ll keep those settings going until my milk slows, and then I hit that bacon button again to speed it up and try to get another let down, which leads to more milk!
  • For the rest of the pumping session, I slowly ramp up the suction. For the last few minutes, I’m at the highest suction I can handle (a level 12)

It took some trial and error, and tips from others but this totally works for me! I hope it does the same for you!

6 Pros of the Spectra S2

1. Tried and true

Old faithful! This is a great pump and does an AMAZING job. I used a Spectra S2 for my whole breastfeeding journey with Walter, and honestly, I loved it. I thought my body responded really well to it, and I never felt full afterward. 

2. Affordable even without insurance

This pump is pretty affordable even if you don’t have insurance. The pink one is $160, and the blue is $200. The blue Spectra S1 does have added features (including a built-in battery for wireless pumping!), so the added cost does make sense.

If you do have insurance the pink one is almost always fully covered under most insurance plans, with the blue being a small upgrade.

3. Easy to clean parts 

I like the Spectra parts a lot! I personally prefer the duckbills that the Spectra (and Motif) offer over Medela parts. I feel like the suction is great, and they are super easy to replace as needed because they all have a universal fit.

This pump also doesn’t have too many parts to clean! And who doesn’t love that? The Medela definitely has more tiny parts that will need washing after pumping.

4. Nice additional features

Okay, these features are really what set the Spectra apart from the Medela for me. Here’s what I love about the overall design and function:

  • It has a handle! Yes, I do like that it has a handle. In fact, this is one of the only cons of the Motif (my favorite pump) in my mind. I find I really do use and love the handle on the Spectra
  • It’s quiet! Compared to other pumps, this baby makes more of a purring sound which is nice, especially for night pumping
  • Nightlight! It does have a handy lil’ night light for middle of the night pumps
  • It has a digital screen and just feels a little more high-tech than the Medela
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5. Massage mode

Aka the bacon button! But yes, I DO like the ability to toggle back and forth as needed between stimulation mode and slower pumping. This is an easy way to try and get more milk out. 

Side note – you can also do this with Motif, but not with Willow.

6. It’s a closed system

Those backflow protectors keep it a closed system pump, so the tubing will never accumulate milk.

I personally do not think I would get a pump that is not closed! Once moisture or milk gets into the tubing it must be replaced. And if you don’t notice/aren’t on top of it, mold can develop which totally skeeves me out AND poses a potential health risk.

I’m kinda like, why wouldn’t you just opt for a closed system and not have to deal with any of that?

2 Potential drawbacks to this pump

1. Longer pump time than the Motif Luna

Okay, so the Spectra is faster than the Medela, but personally it does take a bit longer to pump with this pump vs the Motif that I used with my second baby.

It obviously depends on how full I am at the time, but personally it’s a bit longer for me! I AM still able to get the same amount of milk out, but just takes a little longer.

2. You have to stay plugged in

The Spectra S2 does not come with a battery option. You have to be plugged into the wall and really this is the most significant con for me!

I should note that you can buy a battery pack to add on, or opt for the blue version which comes standard with a battery option (which is why is it’s more expensive!).

Medela Pump in Style with MaxFlow breast pump review

Medela at a glance

Okay, so the Medela is another classic-style double electric pump. As with the Spectra S2, it is a closed system, which keeps milk and moisture from accumulating in the tubing.

This double electric pump, with MaxFlow technology, features hospital performance to maximize output. It has clinically proven technology to increase milk supply by 11.8%!

A big difference between the S2 and the Pump in Style is the battery. The S2 has to be plugged into an outlet at all times whereas the Pump in Style has a battery pack that allows you to pump on the go!

The weight is something else to consider between the two. The Medela pump only weighs 1.18 lbs and the Spectra pump is 3 lbs. Not a huge difference but the smaller and lighter they are, the more portable they are too!

How I use my Medela Pump in Style

Again, I want to go over my settings because I think it can be sooo helpful to hear what others are doing!

  • Turn on the pump and begin in the stimulation phase
  • Then I adjust the vacuum by using the increase (+) or decrease (-) buttons to find a comfortable speed
  • If my milk starts flowing and the pump hasn’t changed to the expression phase, I press the let-down button to switch from stimulation to expression (this happens automatically after 1 minute of pumping)
  • And once I’m finished I just push the power button to turn it off

What’s included with your Medela Pump in Style with MaxFlow

  • 1 double electric breast pump
  • Battery pack that takes 8 AA batteries (AA batteries not included)
  • 2 of each size personal fit flex breast shields (21 mm and 24 mm)
  • 2 breast shield connectors with membranes
  • 4 (5-oz) bottles with lids
  • Breast pump tubing set
  • Power adapter for wall outlet
  • 1 cooler bag
  • 1 ice pack with bag

Medela pros: 5 Things I like about this pump

1. The price

This pump is covered by MOST insurance companies FULLY, from what I can tell! It’s retail price is also slightly cheaper than the Spectra, so if you’re paying out of pocket this is definitely a solid budget-friendly option. You can actually snag it right on Amazon.

2. Easy to find parts

The parts are easy to replace and widely available. They even have them at Target!

3. Let down button

I do like that it has a “let down” button similar to the “bacon” button that Spectra has. I also like that it automatically switches over to “slow mode” after 1 minute of use, or you have the option to hit it manually yourself.

4. It works!

Output was the same for me personally! I feel like I pump just as much with this pump as I do with my Motif/Spectra.

I actually like the stimulation that this pump gives me OVER Motif/Spectra too. Motif/Spectra are more of a vibration, Medela is more of a pull. Call me crazy, but the pulling felt more similar to actual breastfeeding to me…this may not be your experience though!

5. Doesn’t have to be plugged in at all times

The included battery pack gives you up to 2 hours of pumping time without being plugged into an outlet.

Medela cons: 6 reasons I wouldn’t get this pump

1. No timer

I have to admit this is a MAJOR downfall for this pump. Come on, just put a little timer on there so I don’t have to look at my phone to see how long I’ve been pumping for! This is one of those lacking little features that just kind of bugs me.

2. No light

Again, not a super huge deal. But I like that Spectra has a light for MOTN pumps. With the Medela you’ll be pumping in the dark or needing to put on a separate nightlight.

3. Lots of parts to clean

This pump definitely has more parts to clean than a Spectra/Motif pump. I don’t like cleaning things so that is a con in my book.

4. It’s kind of loud

This pump reminds me of a squeaky bed. I much prefer that vibration sound that Motif/Spectra has. For exclusive pumpers, this could get really annoying, especially during nighttime pumps.

5. The bottles tip over sometimes

THIS MAY BE THE WORST PART OF IT ALL! I love Medela bottles…I used them with both Walter and Ryland. But they are lightweight, and sometimes tip over with the flanges attached. BEWARE!!!

Spectra vs Medela: the bottom line

I 100% recommend the Spectra over the Medela. Having used both (and a number of other pumps) if you have a choice go for the Spectra. Overall, it has better features and is more efficient.

The Medela is a good pump – it gets the job done. But it’s just not as great as some of the others in my opinion.

Remember, at the end of the day both of these pumps work! You will effectively express milk with either pump, which is the number one goal.

But I know for me, the Spectra comes with less of a headache and makes the whole act of pumping a little more tolerable. I think we’re all here for that.

But if you’ve got choices, go for the Motif Luna!

BUT WAIT! Of ALL the pumps I’ve tried, the Motif Luna is hands down my favorite. With the Motif Luna, my pumping sessions are shorter and more productive than with the Spectra OR the Medela. I also love that the Motif is quiet and wireless to boot.

Go read my full review of the Motif Luna, and thank me later! If your insurance will cover it, GET IT, mama.

Looking for more breast pump reviews and resources?

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Happy pumping!

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Liesel Teen, RN-BSN

Liesel Teen

BSN, RN, Practicing Labor and Delivery Nurse

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