Medela vs Spectra

Medela vs Spectra is the ultimate debate. These are two of the most common breast pumps on the market! So, how do you know which is best for you? Read this comprehensive compare/contrast style review to decide for yourself!

(This post was originally a video. Check it out, here!)

Medela vs Spectra Similarities

These two pumps have some things in common. Let’s talk about their similarities first.

  • They can both do a single or double pump.
  • They also both have a two phase expression technology meaning that you can have the slow soft sucking at first and then when your milk lets down you can switch it to a more rapid and stronger suck.
  • These two pumps also have options for different flange sizes. You can get different widths based on the size of your nipple.

Okay, that is about all they have in common. So, now let’s cover the differences.

Medela vs Spectra Main Differences

The Medela pump is an open system. This means that there is nothing between the tubing, milk flow and the pump. So, it is possible, and happens frequently, that you get milk up into the tubing.

The Spectra is a closed system pump. This means that there is a back flow protector in between the milk and the tubing, so no milk in the tubing! This makes it possible to use this pump with multiple users because you can sterilize the parts and there is no risk of milk contamination. Spectra pumps are great for use in a hospital setting!

Bottle Sizes and Pump Parts

Another difference is the sizes of bottles that they use. The Medela uses a narrow mouth bottle and the Spectra uses a wide mouth bottle. The bottles are not interchangeable between pumps.

The valves on these pumps are also quite different. The Spectra uses a duck bill valve and the Medela uses a flap style valve. Both valves do come off for easy cleaning and replacement which is nice. The duck bill valve seems to last a little bit longer and is also easier to clean because you can really get inside it and clean it well. But both valves serve their purpose well. You can order replacement parts for both of these pumps.

The tubing is a bit different too. You will notice that the Medela tubing has one specific end that attaches to the pump and the other end directly to the flange. The Spectra tubing has the same ends on the tubing on both sides. Either end can be attached to the pump or to the flange.

Medela vs Spectra Power Supply

The Spectra 1 has a built in rechargeable battery which is awesome. This means that you don’t have to plug it in to use it.

You do have to plug in the Medela pump, although you can buy a battery pack which runs with 8 AA batteries which makes it more portable.

(The Spectra 2 does not have that built in rechargeable battery so you would need to plug that pump in or get a battery pack.)

Medela vs Spectra Sucking Pattern

The biggest and most important difference between these two pumps is the way that they suck.

Easy Adjusting on the Medela

With the Medela, you have you suction speed and intensity on a single nob that you turn. You start it out slow and then turn it up for a harder suction. It is easy to adjust. There is a two phase expression where if you push that button, it will slow down the suction for the beginning of your pumping session. Once that letdown happens you can hit that button again and the cycles will speed up. The suction on this pump is a steady pull.

Customization on the Spectra

The Spectra has a few more buttons which can sometimes be a bit more confusing to a new pumper, but there is way more customization and things that you can do with this pump. One nice thing about this pump is when you turn it on, it will start at your last settings. It will remember where you were so you don’t have to remember what suction strength you like.

It has different cycles that you can change. There are five cycles from a slow starting suck to a faster suck once your milk has letdown. You can also change the vacuum suction from a low to a high, depending on your preference.

Suction Sound

Also, if you listen to the Spectra, you will notice that the suction sounds different that with the Medela. There is more of a three pull suction, which is closer to what a baby actually does. A lot of moms say that the Spectra feels more natural and is more comfortable overall.

Other Features


The Spectra will also count your time so you can keep track of how long you are pumping. That is a great feature in case you get distracted or you just want to keep track of how long you have been pumping.

Next, the night light feature on the Spectra is amazing if you are pumping during the night or in a darkened room. Sometimes when it is dark it is easier to get your milk to letdown because it makes you relaxed and calm. So this little light is very helpful in a lot of different scenarios! This light has a dim and bright option.


A couple of pros for the Medela are that they offer milk catching bags that will screw right onto the top where the bottles attach. That means you can pump right into the bag, remove it from the pump, seal it up and it can go right into the fridge or the freezer. That takes out the extra step of pouring from the bottle into the bag and then having to wash the bottle.

The Medela company also has a lot of options for carrying bags that fit this pump. So if you want a messenger bag, purse, or backpack, they make a lot to choose from that are specific to this pump and also some accessories.

Medela also makes little coolers with an ice pack that fits their bottles really well. You can fit four bottles into this cooler for transport. This is a great little feature. Also, a lot of their bags they offer have room to carry this little cooler.

Final Answer: Medela vs Spectra!!

Personally, the Spectra 1 pump is by far my favorite pump out of these two options. There are so many features on the Spectra that makes it user friendly, customizable, and easy to use. It is nice that this company thought of the little helpful things, such as the light and a place to set the bottle built into the pump. These options are very helpful!

However, the Spectra does not have any of those cool little accessories like Medela does.

You can find a lot of breast pumps bags on Amazon. You can find ones that fit this pump nicely, and has room for other accessories extra supplies, nursing covers, drying mats for when you wash out your parts and anything else you might need to pump on the go.


There you go! Those are some of the main differences between the Medela and Spectra S1 pump. Because these are the two most common pumps, you can usually order either of these pump usually for free from your insurance company.

If you would like more information on these pumps check out the New Little Life YouTube Channel! Or, join the New Little Life Breast Pump Facebook group for a community of pumping moms who might have similar experiences to you! You can also work with Allison, an IBCLC and pumping expert, to help find the best pump for you!

Medela vs Spectra