Breast Pump Comparison: Spectra S2 vs Medela PISA
Introduction: Spectra S2 vs Medela Pump In Style Advanced
Many moms want to know: which breast pump wins in a contest between Spectra S2 vs the Medela Pump In Style Advanced? The PISA has been the most widely used breast pump for a long time. But the S2 is becoming more popular. As a working mom, I use a breast pump often- usually 4-5 times a day during the work week! I nurse my baby in the evenings and on weekends. I use both the Spectra S2 and the Medela Pump In Style Advanced (PISA) daily. And I can tell you about where each breast pump truly stands out!
When talking about portability, the Medela Pump In Style Advanced beats the Spectra S2, hands down. But the S2 works quite well and has more settings and features, allowing you to customize the pump settings to work best for your body. What I’ve learned is that every woman’s body is different, and so are their preferences and needs.
So I’ll lay out the differences between the Spectra S2 vs Medela Pump In Style Advanced. We will also talk a little about breast pumps in general, how to assemble your Spectra S2 or PISA, useful PISA and Spectra S2 tips, and other supplies you may need while using your breast pump.
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Summary: Spectra S2 vs Medela Pump In Style Advanced
If you want the short version, the Medela PISA is much more portable and easy to travel with, as it is smaller and built into a travel bag. The Spectra S2 is much more versatile, with more advanced controls to help you optimize your pump’s power and speed to what works best for you. The S2 is extremely quiet and also has handy nightlight.
I’ve summarized the differences between the Spectra S2 vs Medela Pump In Style Advanced in this handy dandy chart.
Who should consider buying an electric breast pump?
If you plan to breastfeed and will frequently be away from your baby for extended periods of time, I highly recommend an electric breast pump. If you just plan to be away for the occasional night out, a manual hand pump, like this affordable pump from Amazon, will probably be enough.
In short, if you won’t be able to nurse your baby at least every 3 hours, get a breast pump. Working moms whose children are in daycare are often away from their babies for at least 8 hours and will need a pump to provide milk for their baby and keep up their milk supply.
Portability: Spectra S2 vs Medela PISA
The Medela Pump In Style Advanced comes in three versions – a tote, a messenger bag, and a backpack. The messenger bag has more accessories and you can remove the pump super easily.
The Medela PISA is much more portable than the Spectra S2. Clocking in at 2.98 lbs, the PISA plus the bag weighs a bit less than the S2, which is 3.3 lbs.
But the dimensions are very different. The S2 has a round shape with a handle and is about 8x8x6.5 inches. While the bag for the PISA is, 14x7x12, the pump portion is only about a quarter of that, maybe 5x4x6 or so.
Spectra S2 – compare the shape of the Spectra S2 vs Medela PISA! Read more details about the S2 on Amazon.
Other versions of the S2 also come with a tote and bottle cooler
To put it another way, when I pack my S2 in a travel bag to take to work, it takes up a ton of room due to its shape. Meanwhile, there’s still lots of room in my Medela Pump In Style bag. However, one of the upsides of the large S2 bag is that I can fit my laptop in it. When I take my PISA and computer home from work, I have to carry two bags- one for the pump and one for the laptop. I do have the backpack style PISA, in retrospect, I should have gotten the tote.
Some versions of the Spectra S2 do not come with their own travel bag. The one I ordered through my insurance did not! I use this bag from Amazon for my S2, and it’s great because I can fit lots of other stuff in it, like snacks or a water bottle. And I can take the pump out to use it as a diaper bag. This bag does not have an insulated bottle pocket, however.
Travel Accessories: Spectra S2 vs Medela PISA
Some moms don’t have the convenience of being able to plug their breast pumps into a normal wall outlet all the time. The Medela PISA comes with a battery pack that takes 8 AA batteries (not included) so you can pump without a power outlet. Some versions also come with a 12 volt vehicle adapter that plugs into your car’s cigarette lighter. Some versions of the Spectra S2 come with a battery pack and a car adapter, but some do not.
I’ve used the PISA’s car adapter and the battery pack while traveling. Both work great!
If you need a car adapter for your S2, consider this one, which is surprisingly affordable on Amazon. As for a portable battery, this one has great ratings. It is a little expensive, but if your insurance doesn’t cover the Spectra S1 (the S1 is rechargeable!), then it may be worth spending a little more on making your pump do what you want.
How loud is the Spectra S2 vs Medela PISA?
The Spectra S2 is much quieter than the Medela Pump In Style. Spectra’s website explains that their founder insisted on the quietest motor available while it was being designed (source). Putting either pump on a soft surface, like a couch, ottoman, carpet, or even a blanket or towel helps muffle the sound to make them quieter.
Pump Settings and Modes: Spectra S2 vs Medela PISA
Both pumps have their pros and cons when it comes to setting up the vacuum and pump speed. First, I’ll explain why these are important.
The purpose of a breast pump is so mom can remove milk when her baby isn’t around. So a pump tries to mimic a baby nursing. At first, a baby sucks quickly until the milk starts flowing, or lets down. Then, the milk comes out steadily for awhile and the baby sucks more slowly. Eventually, the milk will slow down, and the baby sucks quickly again to stimulate another letdown.
Every woman is different. Some women have a quick letdown every few minutes. Other women’s bodies take longer to get the milk flowing.
So what does this have to do with breast pumps? Well, most models have some sort of letdown mode and normal mode. They also have a control for vacuum pressure. By adjusting these settings, moms can set the pump up in a way that works best for their bodies.
To put things simply, the PISA is easier to use, but the S2 gives mom more control. Let’s get into the specifics, starting with the PISA.
Medela PISA Settings
In the image above, you can see the Medela Pump In Style has two controls. The dial turns the pump on and adjusts it to whatever strength you’d like. The button with the arrow and the drops next to it allows you to turn letdown mode on or off as needed.
When you turn on the PISA, which is done by adjusting the dial, it automatically starts in letdown mode, runs for about 2 minutes in letdown mode, then switches to regular mode.
The PISA does have a letdown mode button, so mom can turn it on or off as needed. The dial has dots, so you can adjust the pump to stronger or weaker settings, whatever you prefer.
Related post: check out my guide to assembling your PISA!
Spectra S2 Settings
In comparison, the Spectra starts in regular mode, requiring mom to press the letdown mode button (the wavy lines just above the power button) at the start and then press it again to turn off letdown mode. As a new mom with little sleep, that was way too complicated for my tired brain. In fact, many moms who are new to the Spectra don’t realize this and actually use the settings backwards and assume it starts in letdown mode and accidentally turn letdown mode on when they should be in regular mode!
I can personally attest to the fact that I’ve accidentally left the Spectra in letdown mode for several minutes and forgotten to switch to regular!
But where does the Spectra S2 really stand out vs the Medela Pump In Style? With its customizable controls. When you turn on the PISA, you can adjust the vacuum pressure with a knob, and that’s it. With the Spectra, you can adjust the vacuum pressure and the vacuum speed. Why is this important? Well, to mimic the baby, during letdown mode, you want the vacuum sucking quickly. And in normal mode you want it sucking slowly. The PISA does suck faster and slower, but you get what you get. The S2 lets you change these settings to whatever you want.
The Spectra S2 settings are saved from session to session, so you don’t have to remember what worked well last time. You change the Spectra S2 settings using buttons. The PISA just has a dial you rotate to select what you want, so there’s more guesswork involved if you want to get it the same as your previous session. And there are no numbers around the dial, so you have to guess which mark you had it on. I’ve accidentally turned the pressure too high or too low on my PISA before!
The numbers: Spectra S2 Settings
As for the specifics of the Spectra S2 settings, Spectra’s website explains (source):
- Massage mode (or letdown mode) can be set to 70 cycles per minute, with a vacuum strength from 1-5
- Expression mode can be set to 38-54 cycles per minute, with a vacuum strength from 1-12
If you are considering pumping at night in the dark, you will likely prefer the S2’s controls. It even has a night light!
Spectra S2 vs Medela PISA: Backflow Protection
On the left is the S2 backflow protector. And on the right is the Medela Pump In Style membrane. You can see how the white silicone piece of the S2 fully prevents moisture from getting into the tubing. The PISA’s can collect moisture into the tubing.
One of the big differences between the S2 and the PISA is their methods of overflow protection. The S2 is a closed system. It has special backflow valves to protect against moisture or milk flowing into the tubing or breast pump, which prevents mold, bacteria, and viruses that could grow in the tubing.
The PISA, on the other hand, is a closed system at the motor. This means that milk or moisture could get into the tubing and possibly encourage the growth of mold or bacteria. I’ve seen moisture get into my PISA’s tubing. Medela recommends running the pump for a few minutes after you’ve removed the bottles, with just the tubing on, to flush out moisture. That trick has worked pretty well for me so far, but is kind of noisy while the pump runs. And I can usually still see a little moisture in the tubing even after flushing out the moisture. The manufacturers of all pumps recommend that pumping moms replace valves and tubing every few months, and it becomes even more important if you use a PISA. Luckily, replacement parts are pretty cheap on Amazon.
Moisture in the PISA tubing even after running the pump for 2 minutes while not hooked up to a bottle
Single or Double Pumping
In looking at the Spectra S2 vs the Medela PISA, the PISA is the best choice if you frequently switch between pumping one side or both sides. Before I’d ever used a pump, I figured I’d always use the double pumping option, but in reality, I often pump one side while I nurse my baby on the other side in the morning, and then pump both sides while I’m at work (related post: learn about baby behavior while nursing). Women with clogged ducts may only want to pump one side. Or maybe your baby fell asleep after nursing on one side and you want to pump the other side. There are many reasons you may want to switch from single pumping to double pumping
In theory, this should be easy. You just have to plug one of the outlets from the vacuum pump… But let’s see in practice- how to pump one side with the Spectra S2 versus how to pump one side with the Medela Pump In Style Advanced
How to Pump One Side with the Spectra S2
Let me tell you, the S2 is a real chore to switch back and forth from single to double pumping. The S2 has a rubbery plastic cap that you can put over a vacuum outlet if you don’t need it, so you can pump one side. But the cap is really small, and the area is recessed. So it can be really tough to get your fingers in there to remove the cap or replace it.
How to Pump One Side with Medela Pump in Style Advanced
Switch the Medela Pump In Style between single and double pumping by moving the yellow vacuum port cover over one of the ports (for single pumping), or onto the supporting post (for double pumping).
What about the PISA? If you want to pump one side with Medela Pump In Style Advanced, it has a super simple system with larger covers that are easy to access. It’s a breeze to switch between single and double pumping. Simply cover up one of the openings and turn the pump on! Want to pump both sides? Just take the cover off again!
Double Pumping Tips
If you are frequently double pumping, I recommend using a hands-free pumping bra. I discovered the Simple Wishes bra on Amazon. It frees up my hands while pumping, so I can work, massage to release more milk, or relax and read! It comes in two sizes which are labeled in a confusing way. Both sizes have an adjustable back so you can make the bra any size you want. The “x-small/large” size fits most women. However, the “large/plus” size has an insert that goes between your breasts to make the bra fit better over the front of your breasts, in case you have a wide chest. It is compatible with both the S2 and the PISA.
Some women cut holes in a regular bra to make a nursing bra. Personally, I really like my regular bras and wouldn’t want to cut holes in them. And I don’t think they would hold the bottles as well for me as a dedicated pumping bra does.
Bottles & Pump Parts
When comparing bottle and pump parts for the Spectra S2 vs Medela PISA: both have bottles with sort of hard to read markers. The PISA bottles are compatible with some other types of bottles, like Dr Brown’s. The S2 comes with 2 sizes of flanges so you are more likely to get one that fits you.
The Medela Pump In Style comes with four small 5 oz bottles with lids. PISA bottles have narrow necks. The PISA bottles are actually compatible with Dr Brown’s bottles and nipples, which some parents like to use when feeding their babies.
The S2 comes with two to four small 5 oz bottles with lids. Spectra bottles are wide-necked.
Breast Flanges and Connectors
The breast flange or shield is the “horn” that fits onto your breast. The Medela Pump In Style includes two 24mm breast flanges and 2 connectors to attach them to your bottles. The S2 includes two 24 mm and two 28 mm breast flanges
I highly recommend determining what size flanges you’ll need after giving birth. Your breast size and nipple size can change. It may even change again over the ten weeks or so that it takes your milk supply to become consistent.
The nurses or lactation consultants at the hospital can help you determine while you are still at the hospital after your baby is born. Or, there are handy guides here from Medela, and here from Spectra showing how to measure them yourself. Having the optimal size for your body optimizes your milk production. Therefore, having the right size flange can drastically change how much milk you pump! I also recommend getting an extra set of the size that you like so that you have more flexibility and aren’t always washing.
Basically, take your nipple size in mm and add 3-4mm to determine your flange size.
up to 16mm = 20mm flange
17-20mm = 24mm flange
21-24mm = 28mm flange
25-28mm = 32mm flange
Once you’ve determined the correct flange size, you can purchase the different options on Amazon.
Medela PISA flanges
- Medela offers 21mm, and 24, 27, 30, and 36 mm flanges on Amazon. The PISA typically comes with 24mm flanges.
- Third-party seller Maymom offers PISA flanges on Amazon in 17mm, 19, 21, 24, 27, 30, 34, and 36mm flanges. Some of these kits include valves, and a few also include tubing.
- Third-party seller Nenesupply offers PISA flanges on Amazon in 19, 21, 24, 27, and 30mm. Note that you also have the option of getting the white silicone duckbill valves that the Spectra uses, instead of the yellow hard plastic ones that are supplied by Medela. They will fit on your PISA.
- If the hard plastic flanges are too rough, I recommend this affordable soft flange for the PISA from Amazon
Do be aware, these third party kits include the flange attached to the bottle connector. It is not a separate piece like the original PISA flanges. Personally, I like them better since there are fewer parts to lose!
Spectra S2 Flanges
- Spectra offers 20, 24, 28, and 32 mm flanges on Amazon. The S2 typically comes with 24 and 28mm flanges.
- Third-party seller Maymom on Amazon offers 15, and 17, as well as 19, 21, 25, 25, 27, 28, 30, 32mm flanges.
- And third-party seller Nenesupply on Amazon offers 19, 21, 24, 27, and 30mm flanges.
- Soft silicone flanges (like these from Amazon) may be more comfortable for you than the hard plastic ones that come with the pump
Valves: Spectra S2 vs Medela PISA
Both S2 and Medela Pump In Style come with 2 valves. This is what creates the suction between the breast and the bottle. The Spectra valves are little rubbery one piece things that look like duck bills. When comparing Spectra S2 vs Medela PISA valves, they both work, but the PISA valves are a little less user-friendly. The Medela valves have two pieces- a yellow hard plastic piece that fits onto the breast flange connector, and a tiny white flexible plastic piece that connects to the yellow part. Medela’s are definitely more difficult to wash – but – you can use Spectra valves on the PISA if you are willing to spend a few dollars on extra valves for the convenience.
Bonus Features: Spectra S2 vs Medela PISA
The Spectra S2 and Medela Pump in Style Advanced have different features that different moms will prefer. We’ve already talked about size and portability, which are the PISA’s main benefits. And the variety of settings, which are the S2’s best features.
The S2 also has a night light and a timer. The night light is great for moms pumping at home in the middle of the night who don’t want to wake everyone up.
The S2’s timer can be helpful for working moms who only have a set amount of time to pump. If I use the PISA at work, I need to keep an eye on the clock or set a timer to make sure I get back to work on time!
The PISA comes with a bottle cooler and cooling element (aka an ice pack), and a battery pack that uses 8 AA batteries, which are not included
Spare Parts & Accessories
Spare parts and extra bottles are available on Amazon! Personally, I bought an extra set right away in case something broke, or if I didn’t have a chance to wash my one and only set, I had clean parts ready to go. Spectra and Medela also recommend replacing the tubing, valves, and membranes every 3-6 months in order to keep your pump working at its best
Related post: How to assemble your Spectra S2
Medela PISA spare parts from Amazon
- Medela: membranes, valves and membranes, and tubing
- Maymom: tubing, valve, and membranes and just tubing, or accessory kit (includes tubing, flanges, valves, and membranes)
- Nenesupply: valves and membranes, and tubing, or accessory kit (includes tubing, flanges, valves, and membranes
Spectra S2 spare parts from Amazon
For the S2, I actually prefer the bottles made by third-party manufacturer Nene Supply. You can clearly read the labels and even after using them for about 6 months now, the labels haven’t worn off. The Spectra bottles, on the other hand, are much harder to read.
- Spectra: Note-most of the Spectra parts are just single count, you may need to order two!) backflow protector, tubing, duckbill valves, or accessory kit (includes tubing, flange, backflow protector, duckbill valve, and bottle)
- Maymom: backflow protectors, duckbill valves, or accessory kit (includes tubing, flanges, backflow protectors, bottles, and duckbill valves)
- Nenesupply: backflow protectors, tubing, duckbill valves, or accessory kit (includes tubing, flanges, backflow protectors, bottles, and duckbill valves)
The flanges and valves from Nene Supply are a little different than the Spectra versions but they work just fine. The threaded part of the flanges from Nene are a little bit shorter than Spectra’s.
And the Nene valves are different. Instead of a big piece that fits over the bottom of the flange, they have a small indentation that has to fit over the bottom of the flange.However, I find they work just fine even though they are a little different! They are all completely interchangeable.
Spectra S2 and Medela PISA Pump Cleaning Options
While pumping at work or while traveling, moms have a couple options for cleaning or reusing pump parts. Experts recommend pumping at least every three hours while away from the baby. I have a 30 minute drive to work, 8 hours of work, a 1 hour lunch break, then a 30 minute drive home, for a total of 10 hours away from my baby. So this means I pump 3 times at work. So how do traveling or working moms make sure they have enough pieces and parts to pump at work? There are several options.
- Wash them in the sink with soap and water after each use. This is the best thing to do, but not everyone has access to a sink at work, or may not have time to wash the parts at work.
- Have several sets of parts, one set for each pumping session. It does mean washing 3 or more sets of breast shields and flanges once you get home.
- Store the breast shields and flanges in a sealable zip-lock bag in a fridge or cooler between pumping sessions. All moms may not have access to a fridge at work.
- A coworker taught me about these breast pump wipes that I ordered on Amazon to disinfect the parts that are exposed to milk. I’ve used these several times while traveling and they are very convenient!
If you are pumping milk, you will need a place to store it. Again, you have lots of options! Also consider checking your daycare provider’s preference, they may want the milk delivered in a specific way.
- Pump and store in whatever bottles fit onto your pump. This is what I do, just put a lid on the bottles after pumping and I’m good to go!
- Pump directly into the bottles your baby will drink from. However, the bottle your baby prefers may not be one that fits onto your breast pump.
- Pump directly into storage bags. I tend to do this while traveling as the bags take up much less room than bottles. Some moms also like pumping into bags since they won’t have to wash as many bottles. This accessory from Amazon lets you pump directly with your S2 into bags. And this highly-rated kit on Amazon that lets you pump directly with your PISA into bags.
- If I have extra milk left over, I also pour it into storage bags and freeze it. I like these breastmilk storage bags by Lansinoh.
- I use two of these plastic boxes to organize the milk in my freezer, and one in my cupboard to store extra bottles and pump parts. They are the perfect size to stand the bags up on their sides! I also have several in my nursery to organize my baby’s pacifiers, socks, and other small stuff!
Medela PISA and Spectra S2 Tips
I’ve come up with a variety of Medela Pump In Style and Spectra S2 tips and tricks, as well as ideas that will work with either pump. Try them out to find out what works best for you! Maybe you will find some of these boost your milk production or make your pumping sessions go by more quickly!
Related post: Want to pump more efficiently? Read 35 Spectra S2 Tips
- Change the settings to see what works best for you. Slowly increase the settings until you feel slightly uncomfortable, then adjust them back down a notch so you are comfortable. Pumping should not be painful.
- Pump after milk stops coming out to ensure your breasts are fully empty. This may mean pumping for 15-30 minutes, depending on your body.
- Pump at the same time every day– routine encourages your body to have an easier letdown.
- Replace your membranes, valves, and tubing approximately every 3 months. These parts can wear out over time and cause the pump to work less effectively, meaning you get less milk. Replacement parts are readily available on Amazon!
- Speaking of which, I recommend keeping a backup set of parts on hand, just in case something breaks.
- Use breast creams on your nipples and on the edges of the flanges. Ointments soothe soreness and make the plastic pump parts less rough on your skin. They are also safe in case some gets into the milk or your baby eats some. Personally, I prefer lanolin, but some moms find it too thick and greasy and prefer the olive oil-based Mother Love cream. Check the prices of lanolin and Mother Love cream on Amazon. It is well worth it to soothe soreness!
- Put your pump on a soft surface to make it quieter, like a couch, carpeted floor, ottoman, or even just put a towel or blanket underneath.
- The Spectra S2 has a little “cup holder” on the back. You can use it to wrangle the backflow adapters, or fit a bottle into it.
Tips for making your pumping sessions comfortable
- Look at pictures or videos of your baby while you pump. This will help you express more. Some moms also bring a piece of their baby’s clothing with their smell on it.
- Find something enjoyable to do while you pump. The more relaxed and comfortable you are, the more milk you will get! Some moms have a game they play or a book they read, but only while pumping. I like putting my pump on a laptop desk (I bought this one off of Amazon for at home) or portable table (and I use this one from Amazon for work). I can keep my pump up off the floor, so I can easily adjust the settings. And I still have room for my laptop or a notebook so I can work or play while pumping.
- Related post: Check out activities that will keep you from getting bored during pumping or breastfeeding
Tips for ensuring good milk supply
- Some moms eat galactogogues, which are foods, drinks, or supplements that may increase milk production. Check them out on Amazon: fenugreek supplements, mother’s milk tea, rolled oats, and whole almonds. Or, you can bake or buy lactation cookies!
- Massage your breasts to help express all the milk.
- Drink more fluids. Try to drink a glass of water before pumping and another glass while you pump. I love having this water bottle around to make sure I have plenty to drink.
- Don’t look at how much milk you’ve pumped while you pump. Cover up your bottles with socks or drape a scarf or something over them
- Personally, I have a manual pump as a backup as well. Just in case the power goes out, or I’m traveling with no place to plug my pump in. I love this Lansinoh manual pump, and it is very affordable. It’s quiet, comfortable, and even has a letdown and expression mode.
- I like to use disposable nursing pads to protect against any leaks. On Amazon, I set them up to auto-deliver every few weeks so I never run out! I’d hate to have milk leaking through my shirt at work if I’m a little late for a pumping session! Some women prefer reusable, washable nursing pads, like these ones by Bamboobies.
Spectra S2 vs Medela PISA: Which is best for your situation?
In general, I recommend the Spectra S2 vs Medela Pump In Style for moms who will primarily be pumping at home, moms who plan to exclusively pump, and moms who want a quiet pump.
In most cases, I recommend the Medela PISA over the Spectra S2 for moms who plan to travel with their pump frequently. If you will mainly be traveling to work, I could see either pump working for you.
Related post: Tips On What To Do With An Old Breast Pump
Conclusions: Spectra S2 vs Medela Pump In Style Advanced
Comparing the Spectra S2 vs Medela PISA, the S2 wins out for giving mom the ability to customize her pump’s settings, and it’s amazingly quiet motor. The Spectra S2 is great for moms who plan to pump primarily at home. The PISA wins in the portability arena. Due to its compact size and how it is integrated into the carrying bag, it is great for moms who travel, whether it is to and from work, or moms who will need to pump in the car, on the plane, or other traveling situations away from home. Moms can also purchase a variety of different accessories for either pump to better suit their needs.
- So you’ve pumped that milk, and your baby won’t drink it? Try these Simple Tricks When Your Baby is Distracted While Bottle Feeding!
- Discover tips for pumping comfortable and effectively with your PISA
- Read mymomsanerd‘s recommended pumping schedules for working moms.
- Bored? Check out activities during pumping or breastfeeding
- Learn about historical baby stuff, like how baby formula was invented, from mymomsanerd.com.
- Learn about the history of baby bottles!
- Click here for hilarious breastfeeding jokes and memes!