Medela Pump-In-Style vs the Spectra S2

My first-born was 4 weeks early. He refused to latch, making nursing a huge obstacle for me.

They gave me a lot of reasons - his mouth was too small, his suck reflex wasn't developed enough, etc. After seeing a lactation consultant multiple times and still not getting the hang of nursing, I turned to Exclusively Pumping (one of the hardest things I've ever done, but that's a story for another day).

Exclusively Pumping means you pump around the clock to produce milk for your baby that can then be bottle fed. To keep your milk production up, you're pumping A LOT. For the first 12 weeks, it's every 2 hours day and night. 

Pumping this often gives a person a lot of experience with various pumps and pumping techniques. With my first, I rented a Medela Symphony for the first 6 months before transitioning to a Medela Pump-In-Style (PISA).

With my second, I got a Spectra S2. I see tons of moms in forums asking for a comparison of the two, and now that I've used both I have some pretty strong opinions. For good measure, we'll add in the Medela Symphony and Medela Harmony.

PISA Spectra S2 Symphony Harmony
Price* ~$230 (with backpack) ~$140 ~$2k to buy, rentals available for ~$70/month $30
Electric? Yes Yes Yes No, Manual
Single vs Double Either Either Either Single
Suction & Speed One setting - as you increase speed it increases suction Independent - control the suction strength separately from the speed
One setting - as you increase speed it increases suction
Manually controlled by you
Light None Yes, with 2 brightness settings No No
Decibels LOUD! If you want Bob from Accounting sauntering around the office trying to figure out what that sound is twice a day for 20 minutes, this is the pump for you. Quiet. Not completely silent, but anyone not sitting right next to it won't hear it. Nearly silent. Nearly silent.
Battery Pack Available Not for the S2, but the Spectra S1 is the same as the S2 and battery powered There is a version with a rechargeable battery n/a
Portability High - with the included back pack and addition of a battery pack, you can walk around and pump (just don't bend forward) Medium - It has a handle for carrying & isn't too heavy, but you'd need to buy a pump bag. It's a little large to carry and pump at the same time, but transporting between rooms or home and office isn't difficult Low - This is a very large pump with a huge, solid case that is heavy and bulky High - tuck it in your purse as a backup
Screen No, you must track how long you've been pumping. Yes, you can see how long you've been pumping + your settings. Yes, you can see the let down or expression phase. No
Auto Shut Off Nope** Yes, at 30 minutes Yes, at 30 minutes When your hand is tired


*Prices are based on current Amazon pricing if your insurance provider wouldn't cover your pump.

**Why do you care? Because in the midst of your mind numbing exhaustion, there will be times when you may fall asleep pumping. With the PISA, you will wake up to tootsie roll nipples that won't sit right for a week.

Based on my experience, I recommend buying the Spectra S2 (hopefully your insurance will cover it or at least part of it) and Medela Harmony (as a back up).

The Spectra S2 is more gentle than the PISA & Harmony and much more affordable than the Symphony. The Harmony is good to have in case your main pump breaks or you just need a little relief in a pinch.

Pro Tip: These adapters will connect your Spectra to Medela or Maymom flanges so you can still use all the free Medela flanges and bottles you got at the hospital. 

Once I discovered the Spectra, I felt like this about the PISA:


Aside from your pump, make sure you're:

  • Using the right size flanges
  • Changing out the valves and membranes every few months
  • Testing the speed and suction settings to find what maximizes your output (it might be lower than you think!)
  • Using the let down function - all 4 pumps in this article have a let down function (a slower suction that mimics what a baby does to stimulate milk flow). Start with it, and try it during your pump sesh if your milk flow wanes
  • Massaging those boobies while pumping - nursing babies suck AND compress, show those boobies some love!
  • Drinking water water water water water - hydration is extremely important!

If pumping isn't/wasn't for you, that's OK too! Fed really IS best.

If you did pump milk for your baby, what was your favorite pump and why?

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