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.

Efficiency:

  • 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

Noisiness:

  • 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.

Accessories:

  • 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.

Aesthetics:

  • 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!!

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