Spectra vs Medela Pump – How Do They Stack Up?



So you are trying to choose between a Spectra pump and a Medela pump, huh? It’s like choosing between chocolate cake and fudge brownies. Both delicious.

So which is better? What are the differences?

In this article, we will put the Spectra and Medela pumps toe to toe and find out who comes out on top. Let’s get to it!


Spectra vs Medela Pump – How Do They Stack Up?

I have had the pleasure of owning both a Medela (both Pump in Style and Freestyle) and the Spectra S1.

Medela, of course, is one of the more widely used brands today by moms. In fact, they dominate the breast pump market as it stands.

Spectra is relatively new to the market, especially in the US. 

Not many moms have heard of Spectra but it is quickly gaining notoriety for its amazing pumps and low prices.

For purposes of this comparison, I will be talking about the Medela PISA (Pump in Style Advanced) and the Spectra S1 . Both are great pumps with some very big key differences!

Note: I chose the Spectra S1 for this review over the Spectra S2 since the S1 has the battery. The S2 can only be used plugged in so the S1 is a little of a better comparison to the Medela PISA. (You can read about the difference of the S1 and S2, here.)

Medela PISA and Spectra S1 Pump Key Features:

Medela PISA

  • medela-pump-in-style-reviewDouble pumping kit with PersonalFit breast shields
  • Can be plugged in or run on AA batteries
  • 2-phase expression technology with one-touch let-down button
  • All parts that touch breastmilk are BPA-free
  • Comes with a removable cooler bag and freezer pack
  • Adjustable speed and vacuum knob
  • Includes Tote Bag
  • Includes breast shields, valves, membranes, and tubing

Spectra S1


  1. Hospital grade
  2. Has a built-in rechargeable battery and AC adapter.
  3. Powerful pump performance with a maximum suction strength of 280mmHg.
  4. It is a closed system pump.
  5. Can be used as a single or double pump.
  6. Digital controls that allow you to set the speed and rhythm that is most effective for your body.
  7. Digital controls also allow you to save your favorite settings and set a program.
  8. The suction is adjustable whether in let-down or expression mode.
  9. Super quiet
  10. Very light – weighs as much as 4 apples!
  11. 2 level built-in light
  12. BPA Free parts

What the Medela Pump in Style and the Spectra S1 Have in Common

While there are a lot of differences between the PISA and the S1, both pumps are in their own right good products.

      They are both double electric and have the option to function as a single pump.

      Both have battery power options making them portable and good for moms on the go.

     √ The retail sticker price for the S1 and PISA is around the same.  (I will say that I have found better deals on the S1 on Amazon than the PISA, however.)

      The S1 and the PISA both have the option to control suction and speed of the pump. This helps keep the cycle of your pumping session more personalized. 

What Makes the S1 and the Medela PISA Different?

There are several differences between the Medela PISA and the Spectra S1 that are worth mentioning. 

Open vs Closed System

closed-system-breast-pumpOne of the main differences between the S1 and the PISA is that the S1 is a closed system pump while the PISA is an open system pump.

This basically means that the S1 has a barrier to keep milk from entering the tubes and the motor of the pump.

The PISA does not have a barrier. 

Click here to read more about Open and Closed System Pumps and why that matters.

Because of this, you will have to sterilize the tubes of the PISA frequently to keep mold from building up. A closed system pump is more sanitary.


While both the S1 and the PISA  have the option to be portable and run off of battery power, the S1 comes with a built-in rechargeable battery.

The PISA includes a battery pack that takes AA batteries. Something to consider with the PISA.

Pump Strength

The S1 is listed by the company as hospital grade.

That label comes with some impressive pump power and the S1 does not disappoint.

It boasts a maximum suction strength of 280mmHg. Compared to the PISA which maxes out at 250 mmHg.

S1 definitely wins this category. It is the more powerful pump.

Pump Controls

I did mention above that both pumps allow you to control the pump speed and suction.

The PISA uses dials that you turn to control each.

The S1 features digital controls which also includes a backlight so you can see it in darker settings. The S1 also has a timer which is helpful. 



The PISA comes with a lot more accessories than the S1 out of the box.

The PISA includes all the pump parts you need to get started, a cooler with an ice pack, and a tote bag.

Medela also throws in some samples of milk storage bags and a storage guidelines magnet in most sets. 

The S1 only includes the pump parts.

No tote or cooler. That may or may not be a big deal.

I personally did not care for the PISA tote bag.

It is poorly made and screams breast pump when carrying it around.

I ditched it and opted for a more discrete and stylish bag like the Sarah Wells totes. You could always do that with the S1.

I do like the Medela cooler, though. The ice pack is contoured so it fits perfectly around the storage bottles. Really nice thing to have. 

Pump Noise

Neither the S1 or the PISA are extremely quiet (I personally think the Ardo Calypso takes that category) but the PISA is really noisy.

I used to joke that my PISA was talking to me because the pump noise sounded like it was repeating random phrases.

Hey, I was an exhausted, working mom

The S1 might save you from that hallucination because it is significantly quieter. 

Part Availability

One thing I dislike about the Spectra pumps is that the parts can be hard to find.

I have not run into any stores that carry them as of yet.

That means you will need to purchase them online.

Nowadays maybe that isn’t a huge issue since everyone on the planet is a member of Amazon Prime and they are available there with no issue.

Check Out this Video

This video is a good visual so you can see the two pumps in action:


So who wins? 

Well, I guess it depends on the user.

Each mom has their own needs and unique set of circumstances.

Both of these pumps are great but the Spectra S1 is slightly better in my opinion.

The combination of the pump strength, the digital controls, and how comfortable it is to use gives the S1 an advantage over the Medela PISA.

You really can’t go wrong with either pump here but if I had to choose I would choose the Spectra S1 hands-down. 

Have you tried the S1 or PISA or have a question? Leave me a comment below!

Click here to read more about the Spectra S1.

Click here to read more about the Medela Pump in Style Advance.

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  1. Scarlett Taylor says:


    Thank you for the review is great. I have the medela free style and this is my second baby yesterday I read the Spectra is better from Medela but do you think this also applies to the free style. As I’m a working mom I were always working while the milk was coming out as is hands free but I also want to know if is more powerful the Spectra than this Medela.



    • Heather Grace says:

      Hi Scarlett!
      I am a HUGE fan of the Medela Freestyle. It is a very strong pump and one of the best for working moms or moms on the go. That said, you will not gain too much in terms of pump strength from the Spectra vs the Medela Freestyle. The Freestyle offers a max suction strength of 250 mmHg and the Spectra S1 and S1 come in at 280 mmHg (though you will see 300 mmHg listed on quite a few sites, however, Spectra has confirmed that number is incorrect). So very slight difference.

      The benefits of the Freestyle vs the Spectra is, of course, the size. The parts are easier to get as well since you can buy them in most major retail stores (Target, Buy Buy Baby, etc).

      If you need a good portable pump that fits in your purse but still has a ton of strength, you will be hardpressed to find a better pump that size than the Freestyle. I have a full review of the Freestyle, here, if you want to read more about the features.

      If you are okay with investing in a good pump bag to carry the Spectra S1, then you will save a little bit of money since the Spectra S1 is cheaper. But its bulkier. So there’s the trade-off.

      I hope this helps!

  2. Rebecca says:

    I was wondering if anyone has attempted to use the Spectra with the Freemie cups? I used to use them with my PISA and although I got consistenty had a lower milk output, by that time I wasn’t dependent upon only milk for my daughter’s diet (around 16 mo.)

  3. Ashley says:

    Can you please clarify what the maximum suction is for the Spectra? At first in the article it says 350mm Hg, then it says 300mm Hg…while the Spectra website itself says 250mm Hg?

    Thanks so much!

    • Heather Grace says:

      Hi Ashley,
      I want to thank you for pointing this out!

      As for the Spectra site now saying 250mmHg… that is interesting. At the time of press, the listed mmHg for the Spectra S1 and S2 was 350mmHg. If you look even at their Spectra listings on Amazon (By Spectra Baby USA) they do say 350mmHG. I had not seen it was updated on their site until you posted this. I will definitely be calling Spectra asap to get to the bottom of it! I will post an update once I hear back. Until then, please let me know if there are any other questions!

      I should add too that I don’t doubt the strength of the Spectra pumps. I have used both the Medela PISA and the Spectra and the Spectra performs better in terms of strength in my opinion. Both great pumps though! Thank you for your comment!

      Edit: UPDATE 5/17/17- I spoke with Spectra and they apologized for the various listing that state different mmHg numbers. They stated they are working on cleaning up the misinformation. I was sent their 2017 Offical Spectra Pump Comparision Chart that lists all the current stats for the various Spectra models. The S1 and S2 are both listed at 280mmHg (-/+ 15) now. I have updated all Spectra articles to reflect this info. Thank you again for calling it to my attention!

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