Breast pumps: Medela versus Spectra

My cat finds pump tubing irresistible.

As a breastfeeding, working mom, I have become intimately acquainted with my breastpumps. With my first baby I got a Medela Pump in Style through my insurance and also used a singe Madela hand pump at times. I pumped fulltime during the days at work or school away from Jackson, my baby #1 and successfully pumped, nursed and donated about 800 ounces of breastmilk for 1 year. With Thomas, my baby #2, I got another pump through insurance (we had different insurance) and a friend gave me her basically brand new pump… so I had 3 Pump in Styles. I left my oldest one in the car, so I could pump while driving using a cigarette outlet in the car, and had one pump at work and one at home. I donated almost 37 gallons of milk with Thomas and made it 13+ months with nursing him.

So with Lukkes, baby #3, there have been some new pumps to come on the scene. My good friend delivered her 3rd baby 3 weeks before I did and she had bought the newest Medela, the Sonata, and was raving to me about how she loved it. She’d previously used the Pump in Style and the Freestyle, so I thought I’d check in to it. Well, it wasn’t covered by insurance and carried a $350-$400 price tag depending on where I looked, so I had my reservations. I was informed that my insurance would cover a Spectra S2, and I had been hearing everyone else rave about this pump. Digging deeper, there is also a S1 version, but the only difference being the battery back up and not being required to be plugged in, but my insurance would make me cover the difference, which the home medical equipment quoted me $120 more. I think it’s kinda lame I didn’t have the same option to upgrade and pay the difference with a Medela.

At Christmas I ended up with a 20% of coupon on “anything” from Target from a black Friday purchase, and I have the RedCard, so I decided that a 25% off break would allow me to upgrade to the Medela Sonata, which would be compatible with all of my Medela bottles (I have a ton!). I started using the Sonata and liked it, but then thought, well, if my insurance is going to pay for another new pump I might as well try the Spectra S2 also, so I got one.

I have hours and hours and hours of experience pumping and feel like I can give a pretty fair overview of Medela versus Spectra to help any mama out there wondering what breast pump will work for them, whether for their first baby or to change it up if your older pumps are ready to be retired (as my poor Pump in Styles were). I have not been compensated in anyway for this review (but hey! #Medela #Spectra I could certainly give a paid perspective!), and would be happy to answer any specific questions you may have.


  • Medela Pump in Style: 5 ounces in 7-10 minutes from a full breast
  • Medela Sonata5 ounces in 5 minutes from a full breast
  • Spectra S25 ounces in 5 minutes from a full breast


  • Medela Pump in StyleKinda loud. Like, if you were sitting outside of my office, you’d likely know what I was doing.
  • Medela SonataMuch quieter. Option to mute the machine buttons also.
  • Spectra S2Quite. Not quieter than the Sonata.

Ease of Use:

  • Medela Pump in Style: Super easy. Parts are easy to take apart and clean. Only 2 options to change up – the letdown setting and the pump suction force setting. Is plugged in to the wall, also comes with a battery pack for reusable batteries. The pump flange holders/membrane parts are light and I have always been able to hook them in the little piece of fabric of my nursing tank and be basically hands free when the suction is in place.
  • Medela Sonata:The pump itself is super duper easy to use. It charges and runs on a battery pack. Mine lasted a 5 day work week pumping 2 times per day with it for about 5-7 minutes per session. There are more pump setting options for let down and strength of suction, the pump doesn’t really start pumping until a seal is present with the flange and the breast.  I do feel like the pump flange holders/membranes are cumbersome to clean, have a lot of parts, and are heavier than with the MPIS. I actually have to hold the bottles in place most of the time because of their weight. I will say that the y-shaped tubing is nice, much less tangly than the MPIS.
  • Spectra S2This pump has way more options than what I was used to, but I figured it out. The pump remembers these settings too between pumpings, which is super nice. The pump flange holders/membrane parts are light like with the MPIS, and I could be hands free for the most part. I have the S2, which requires an outlet. The S1, which is more $$ has a rechargeable battery life – I can’t tell you how long it lasts though. Tubing is tangly.


  • Medela Pump in Style: Pump comes with a carrier bag, 4 bottles, insulated bottle bag and ice pack, 2 different sizes of pump flanges (24 and 27mm). No bottle nipple is included.
  • Medela SonataPump comes with a carrier bag, 4 bottles, insulated bottle bag and ice pack, 2 different sizes of pump flanges (24 and 27mm). No bottle nipple is included.
  • Spectra S2Pump comes with 2 bottles, but they do have nipples. Only one size of pump flange, but there are 2 sets – the size isn’t marked on them. No carrier bag for the pump. No bottle bag or ice pack either.


  • Medela Pump in Style: Meh.  Everyone knows what’s in that black tote. And the pump itself is hard to get out of its little Velcro hole and is not cute at all – it’s meant to stay in the bag.
  • Medela Sonata I think the Sonata itsself is super cute. It’s not very heavy. It makes nice little sounds when you turn it on or push the buttons (unless it is muted) and the numbers light up for use in the dark. The black bag it comes with is smaller than the MPIS bag, a little cuter, but still kinda screams “there’s a breast pump in here!!” I like that isn’t stuck in the bag though.
  • Spectra S2The Spectra is heavier than the Sonata. I like the pink though. I does have a back lighting button to use for pumping in the dark. Overall it is pleasing to the eye. And I guess you can pick whatever color pump bag you want, because it doesn’t come with one. 

Overall, if I was was looking at getting a new pump and cost wasn’t a factor, I would pick the Medela Sonata (I am kind of a Medela purist though). BUT, most of us get what insurance pays for, in which case, if I’m picking between the Pump in Style and the S2, I am hands down picking the S2…. realizing that the Spectra bottles are more expensive in general and you’ll probably want to buy a pump bag too if you pump anywhere but your own home. And maybe a car adaptor. And if you have money to spend, I do think it’s worth it to have a pump that doesn’t HAVE TO be plugged in, and that is not possible with the S2, so spend the money on an S1. If you already have a Medela, but want to get a Spectra, you can buy adaptors to be able to still use your Medela bottles (phew, because I have invested about a billion dollars in bottles!). The Medela Pump in Style certainly is still a good pump, it got me through at lot of milk, and I am sure I could have continued to use mine without an issue, but I am also blessed with good production and easy pumping for the most part. 

Anyone else have any opinions that they want to share?? Happy Pumping!!

Lukkes Updates

Because this is about the best way to keep up…



1 week


2 weeks


1 month


1 month


1 month

IMG_66262 months


2 months


2 months



And then there were 3

{I promise I wrote this post relatively immediately after the baby was born, I was just waiting for the birth pictures to add! He’s now 11 weeks old and I head back to work next week…}

Remember when I told you I was pregnant five months ago? Well, Baby McMillan #3 arrived on October 20th in HIS own little way.

The remainder of my pregnancy went smoothly with normal complaints, especially chasing 2 olders, but nothing extremely noteworthy. Just a big old belly, of which I have so few pictures.

The last week of my pregnancy every evening contractions would come and then go, but on the evening of the 18th they were more intense, more regular and I knew that delivery couldn’t be much further away. I did sleep that night off and on, and even went to kettlebell class at 5am because I was up and I figured it would do nothing except maybe hurry things along. I went to work. Tied some loose ends up and saw a few patients, then headed to my OB appointment that afternoon, all the while having contractions every 10 minutes or so, stopping my path if I needed to, but more than anything I was okay to have a distraction from an impending labor.  At my appointment I was dilated 4cm and my doc offered an admission on L&D, I declined, knowing I likely had multiple hours of labor to go, and knowing my husband was 2 hours away helping with soybean harvest on my family’s farm. I, instead, headed to the grand opening sale of the the Carter’s/Oshkosh store near the clinic and spent $100 🙂 I then went home, washed dishes, picked up toys, finished a load of laundry and generally made sure the house would be ready for my pending abscence. I called my husband and let him know that once he was done hauling his current load of beans, he should head back home. I certainly knew I was in early labor, and just didn’t know how to predict the speed of it all once active labor started for the third time in 4 years. I also alerted our friend who volunteered to stay with our boys while we were gone that tonight was our night. When she came over she helped the boys eat supper and was keeping them entertained while I wandered around the house generally doing nothing but breathing through contractions – she has not had any children yet, and she confirmed that watching me in early labor was certainly not convincing her that she wanted to have a baby anytime soon. We got the boys settled into bed and then got in the car and headed to the hospital.

It was after 9 before we were roomed in triage – I was still about 4 cms dilated and spent the next hour wandering around, because if I laid down the contractions would slow. It just felt like something wasn’t quite right – I knew I was in labor, I was getting exhausted and I really wanted them to break my water, but my physician wasn’t on call and they were pretty busy that night, so they didn’t really need me rushing along. At 10 o’clock I was still about 4 cms, I as I wandered the halls getting through my contractions and willing them to pick up speed, because them just seemed too spaced out to make changes happen. I had a moment of pure frustration and the tears poured out of my eyes – I was hurting, I was tired, and I was worried them were going to send me home. I laid down to be checked at 11pm, and finally she decided I was 5cm and constituted official admission. I asked again to have my bag of water broken – they asked if I wanted an epidural, and at that point I was still on the fence about it. I wanted to do it without at least once, but this was all moving so slowly, I wasn’t sure if I was going to endure without an epidural. They put in my IV, and my care was exchanged from the triage nurse to my labor nurse – she was a proponent for no epidural if I was, and so we headed down that path, all the while I think I was still just reserving my request for an epidural, not really sure why I wasn’t getting one, knowing that the pain was certainly going to get worse.

I walked the halls, I labored in the tub, the contractions got stronger, but still spaced out if I rested anywhere. Finally at 2am the resident came to break my water. She struggled, because my cervix was still so posterior, and with her “sorry my fingers are short,” issues it took her a little while to accomplish that. With my previous labors I had an epidural in place before they broke my water. I really wasn’t sure what to expect, but I was doing okay, so I soldiered on, thinking, I can always change my mind. My nurse was amazing and kept me on track. Very quickly the contractions picked up pace. No place was comfortable really, but I found myself swaying by the bed or propped up on all fours on the bed most of the time. The tub helped some, laying down was awful as was squatting or sitting on anything. At 3 o’clock I was 6-7cms, so I called the photographer who had a 30 minute drive and I got back into the tub. Things started to get rough. Rough enough to wake up my husband with my “noisiness.” I saw the photographer walk in, but I didn’t even really acknowledge her presence.

I looked at my nurse from the tub and said, “if I am not 8 cm, I need an epidural.” She nodded, offered that if I wasn’t making progress that “maybe a dose of IV meds and I’ll start your fluid bolus and call the anesthesiologist if that’s what you really want.”

At 3:56 I got out of the tub, I was 8 cm and was now very internally motivated to push. She called the doc and another nurse came to the room. I remember seeing the resident come in and garb up, and I was pushing… on all fours at the end of the bed. I told them he was coming, and they tried to get me to lay down but I physically could not, there was a baby in the way of me moving anywhere. I told the nurse again that he was coming and I remember seeing the resident plastered against the back wall in her sterile gown. With one big push at 4:07 am, my wonderful (and liar, liar pants on fire nurse who was never going to let me get an epidural 😉 ) nurse helped me deliver my third little boy.

The actual physician arrived a few minutes later, LOL. We had known since finding out this baby was a boy that he would be named Lukkes (pronounced like Lucas) because that was my husband’s mother’s maiden name. We had still not agreed on a middle name. After Jesse watched me deliver our son without any pain medication, he deemed it my choice for the middle name, and so, Lukkes Grey was named.

He came out looking just like his older brothers, especially a clone of Thomas. Same terribly furrowed brow, wide nose and big lips, but a TON of hair in comparison to his older siblings. He was (and continues to be) perfection. He weighed 7# 12oz, was 20.5 inches long with a 14 inch head.


By some miracle of miracles, I avoided needing any repairs – I actually suspect that he was laying OP (sunny side up) for the majority of my labor and finally turned, and BOOM, birthday. In hindsight, I am glad I didn’t have an epidural, because if he really was OP (hence my back labor and cervix that wouldn’t move anteriorly), my ability to move around likely helped him finally flip over, and if I would have gotten an epidural I would have laid in the bed, possibly extending my labor and necessitating Pitocin and who knows what else. However, if there is ever to be a 4th McMillan baby, I would likely get an epidural. Why? Because labor hurts, pain gains you nothing, you get the same baby. And why didn’t I get one this time?? I’ve thought about that a lot – I guess it was kind of a bucket list thing – had to do it once, don’t really desire to do it again.


The older brothers have taken a liking to him, especially Jackson, who turned 4 in September. Thomas, who will be 2 on Thanksgiving day, likes the baby and is interested in him in small doses, but doesn’t grasp the permanence of this person in our family. I’ve now deemed our family the McMillan Circus, because that what most of our life feels like – truth be told, it did before, too. Lukkes is a sweet baby, but goes from zero to feisty crying – I believe that is purely a third child defense mechanism that allows him to be noticed. He’s a spitty and semi-colicky little guy – he hates burping. He is amazingly awake and alert most of the day, and sometimes at night.


We tried on multiple attempts for the photographer to get newborn pics with him sleeping – out of 6 hours, he slept for about 45 minutes and woke up if touched. He was deemed “the naughtiest” newborn to photograph. Oh well.. these are a few that we did get (creds to sara dawn photography for birth and newborn photos).


So, here we are. McMillan, party of five. Which means my posts will likely become even less frequent, but, if I have anything meaningful to share, I’ll pop in from time to time 🙂