When you’re getting your breast pump through insurance, it’s pretty common to be given the choice been a Medela Pump in Style or Spectra S2. So which one should you get?
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When you’re buying a breast pump, you don’t normally have the ability to try the different pumps out and decide which you like best – you just have to read reviews.
The Medela Pump in Style and the Spectra S2 are two of the most commonly used breast pumps on the market today, so lots of people have opinions on them! But most people writing reviews have only used one pump or the other, so it’s hard to compare.
I asked 44 women who have used BOTH pumps what they liked about each, and which one they prefer. Below is a quick overview of each pump, and then a summary of the differences between the pumps and the pros and cons.
A Short Introduction to the Medela Pump in Style
This pump is a square box, and it has a pretty simple faceplate where you plug everything in and adjust the suction. It comes with a set of breast pump parts, tubing, a pair of bottles to pump into, and a power cord. One breast shield size (24mm) comes standard with the Pump in Style.
A Spectra S2 Overview
The Spectra S2 is one of Spectra’s two personal, hospital-grade breast pumps. (The other is the S1. The major difference between the S1 and the S2, aside from the color, is that that S1 has a rechargeable battery. The S2, like the Pump in Style, needs to be plugged into an outlet or an external battery.)
The Spectra is rounded, with a handle, a bottle holder (though I’ve seen moms keep everything from cupcakes to M&Ms in there) with settings that are a bit more complicated but also more flexible.
Like the Pump in Style, it comes with a power cord, a set of breast pump parts, tubing, and bottles to pump into. Two breast shield sizes (24mm and 28mm) come standard with the Spectra S2.
Medela Pump in Style or Spectra S2 – Differences between the Two Pumps
Below are the major differences between the two pumps that caused moms to prefer one over the other.
The Spectra S2 has three different settings that you can use to configure your suction, while the Medela Pump in Style has two.
- Mode – Both the S2 and the Pump in Style have two modes: Letdown or Massage mode, and Expression mode. (Medela refers to the first as letdown mode, while Spectra refers to it as massage mode.) Letdown/Massage mode is fast, light suction that is designed to help your breastmilk let down, while expression mode is slower, deeper suction that’s intended to remove the milk from your breasts once it has.
- Cycle Speed – This Spectra setting allows you to adjust how many times the breast pump pulls in a minute.
- Vacuum Speed – The higher the vacuum speed, the harder the suction. The Medela Pump in Style has a knob that you turn until you reach the desired level of suction, while on the Spectra, you adjust it up or down using buttons. The Spectra has 12 vacuum levels.
Overall, the Spectra S2 gives you more options to find exactly the right suction for you.
However, one thing to be careful of – the suction on the Spectra starts off where you were when you stopped pumping the last time you pumped. This can be jarring if your suction was very high and you usually start off lighter in massage mode. The Medela Pump in Style always starts in letdown mode.
Timer and Night Light
The Spectra S2 has both a timer and a night light, while the Medela Pump in Style doesn’t have either.
Personally, I find having a timer on my pump SO useful. Every time that I sit down to pump, I know how long I want to pump for at a minimum, and having a timer on the pump saves me the step of setting a timer on my phone. (Or, I’ll forget to set the timer, and have to guess how long I’ve been pumping. And I’m pretty sure I usually overestimate how long it’s been.)
The nightlight is useful for pumping at night in the dark. If you have your pump parts and everything set up ahead of time, there’s no need to turn on the lights, which makes it easier to get back to sleep.
Moms who had used both pumps noted that the S2 is quieter than the Pump in Style. A quieter breast pump is better for pumping during naptime, in the middle of the night, or at work if you don’t have a lot of privacy.
(One mom said that she literally heard words when pumping with the Pump in Style, which made me laugh. I have experienced this too – I’ve heard my pump saying stuff like “come ON come ON come ON.”)
Closed vs Open System
The Spectra S2 is a closed system pump, while the Medela Pump in Style is open system.
What does this mean?
The Spectra has backflow protectors that keep moisture and breastmilk from getting into the tubing, and, by extension, the pump motor. The Pump in Style does not have backflow protectors and it’s not uncommon for moisture to get into the tubing. Ideally, you would wash and dry your Pump in Style tubing if moisture does get in before it gets to the pump motor, but there is nothing blocking it.
So which is better – open system or closed?
The advantage of a closed system is that more than one mom can use it safely. (So, you may be able to sell or donate your pump when you’re done with it.) Additionally, some moms like knowing that bacteria can’t get into the pump motor.
The main disadvantage of a closed system is that if moisture ever does get into the tubing, you have to replace it. There is no way to safely clean S2 tubing like you can with the Pump in Style.
At first glance, the pump parts look more or less the same, but there are a few differences:
- Spectra’s breast shields and connectors are one part, while Medela has two separate parts (a detachable breast shield and connector). Most people who have used both prefer two separate pieces, because it is easier to use a hands-free pumping bra, and it is easier to clean.
- Spectra has backflow protectors and Medela does not. This is an extra piece to clean, but as noted above, it provides the benefit of a closed system pump.
- Spectra uses duck valves and the Medela Pump in Style uses valve membranes. Many people have no opinion on which is better, but those that do seem to find the suction better with duck valves. (However, you can easily get a set of duck valves and use them on a Medela Pump in Style in place of the valve membrane.)
It tends to be easier to find replacement parts for the Pump in Style in places like Target, but this is changing as the Spectra becomes more popular. Ordering directly from Spectra or from Amazon is also an option.
If you want to use Medela pump parts with your Spectra, here are a few ways to hack it so that you can.
The Spectra S2 shuts off automatically after 30 minutes. The Medela Pump in Style does not have an auto-shutoff.
Some moms like the auto-shutoff because they can pump in an armchair and fall asleep and not have to worry that they will wake up 2 hours later still pumping.
Others don’t like it because they pump for longer than 30 minutes. (Note: Most moms wouldn’t need to pump more than 30 minutes at a time – this would mostly be exclusive pumpers whose babies are on the older side.)
The Spectra S2 is on the larger side and is bulkier than the Medela Pump in Style.
The S2 weighs 3 pounds and the Pump in Style weighs 2.2 pounds.
Medela Pump in Style or Spectra S2: Bottom Line
I used a Medela Pump in Style for years and thought it was fine. But if I were having another baby, and had the choice between a Pump in Style or a Spectra S2, I would get the S2. The ability to customize settings, the timer, and the quieter sound make it a winner for me.
Ready to get your pump? You can find out what you’re covered for via insurance here!
Have you used a Medela Pump in Style or Spectra S2 (or both)? What did you think?References
- Spectra Baby Australia. “What is a hospital grade pump?” https://spectra-baby.com.au/what-is-a-hospital-grade-breast-pump/
- Spectra Baby USA. “FAQ.” https://www.spectrababyusa.com/contact/faq/#toggle-id-11
- Medela. “Pump in Style Advanced On the Go Tote.” https://www.medelabreastfeedingus.com/products/1038/pump-in-style-advanced-on-the-go-tote#tabs-horizontal2
- Facebook Spectra vs Medela question. 5/21/18.