How I pumped more milk with my Spectra by accident

When I first got my Spectra S1 pump, I was happy as Larry, excited to get going.

I read every word in the manual  and followed the recommendations to the T.

The first time I used the pump, I got 10 ml from each breast. Things didn’t get much better the second and third time round.

To say I was disappointed was an understatement. I started googling what to do and tried all sorts of tips from ‘experts’.

None of it worked.

One day I forgot to switch to expression mode and ended up pumping in massage (letdown) mode for 20 minutes.

That day, I got 100 ml of precious milk from each breast.

Ding! I’ve been pumping with the same settings since then and life is good again.

I know how stressful it is to not be able to pump enough milk. Since I haven’t read these tips anywhere, I just wanted to share it. Never know, it might work for you too.

How I got more milk with my Spectra

I found the Spectra settings quite overwhelming. Still do. I don’t even remember what the original settings are anymore but now I just stick to 1 setting.

Every time I pump, I set my Spectra to massage (letdown) mode using cycle 70 and L04 vacuum. Then I eat, surf the net or get some work done for 20 minutes while my trusty pump does its thing.

I set my Spectra to massage mode using cycle 70 and L04 vacuum. Then I eat, surf the net or get some work done for 20 minutes while my trusty pump does its thing – Sharon James (me)

That’s it. End of article.

This setting works for me. It’s worth a try if you’re not getting enough milk from your Spectra.

As you can see, there is no ‘right setting’ to use your pump. Play around with the cycle frequency and vacuum strength. As long as you’re getting good breastmilk output and it’s not uncomfortable, you’re doing it right.

Read: The best hands-free pumping bra for Spectra

Read on for a few more tips about the Spectra.

My Spectra tips

  • If you are tossing up between the Spectra S1 (blue pump with rechargeable battery) and the Spectra S2 (pink pump that needs to be plugged in at every use), choose the Spectra S1. I am telling you now that you will not regret the convenience of having a portable pump.
  • I used to think strong pump suction was important. ‘Experts’ say increase your pump suction to the highest level that you can tolerate without being uncomfortable. I now know that is bullshit. Sometimes light suction works much better.
  • If you put your Spectra pump on a soft surface like a folded up towel or a sheaf of papers, it gets even more silent than it already is.
  • Buy a hands-free pumping bra (here are my recommendations) so your hands are free. Time is precious, multi-task.
  • For pumping in the car (or in public), use Freemie Milk Collection Cups so you can pump with your clothes on. They are compatible with Spectra pumps.
  • I’m a fan-for-life of the Spectra pump but Spectra bottles are really low quality. I use Philips Avent bottles instead but if you already have Medela bottles (or other narrow necked bottles) at home, use a Spectra bottle adaptor or Maymom bottle adaptor to connect them to Spectra flanges.
  • If it’s too late and you regretting the lack of portability of your S2, use the 12V car lighter adapter for car pumping or the TalentCell Rechargeable 12V Battery Pack to carry around.

Spectra vs Medela pump

It’s not that I have anything against the Medela pump. It’s just that I know most new pumping moms scratch their heads over which to buy.

I’ve used both and can hand on heart say that the Spectra pump trumps the Medela pump at almost every turn.

Some of the best benefits I’ve seen with my Spectra pump:

  • the ability to change massage (letdown) and expression mode settings. It’s truly one of the most customizable pumps I’ve seen.
  • It’s surprisingly quiet. After using the loud Medela pump, using the Spectra felt like I was in a library.
  • The timer on the Spectra display window is very useful. No need to wonder how long you’ve been pumping. Because if you’re like me, you’ll forget.
  • Spectra uses a closed system to prevent backflow of milk into the tubes. The Medela I had used an open system and washing milk out of the tubes was a pain I did not need in my life.
  • When I compared similar models, the Spectra was infinitely better value-for-money.

My only complaint about the Spectra S1 is how bulky and heavy it is. You are literally carting a 3 lbs kettlebell around. Use a Mommore or Lunies pump bag.

Other General but Important Pumping Tips

I’m not going to waffle on about all the usual tips like keeping hydrated and looking at a photo of your baby while pumping. You already know all that. But these tips are worth mentioning.

  • Make sure your pump flanges fit correctly. Using the wrong flange size can cause breast pain, reduced pumping output and even clogged ducts. Use this guide to measure your flange size.
  • Massage your breasts before pumping and if you have time, take a break mid-pumping for a short massage. While pumping, do gentle breast compressions. Use a hands-free nursing bra to free up both hands.
  • If you notice that you’re getting less from pump sessions after a few months, your pump parts might be worn. Replace them, especially the duckbill valve. It’s worth it.
  • How much milk you should expect to pump varies. This article gives you an idea but please don’t compare and compete with other moms. It’s about your personal best.

To wrap up

I’m not officially affiliated with Spectra and have no professional qualifications in breastmilk pumping. I’m just a mom who figured out what worked for me. It might not work for you but I think it’s worth a try.

If you are looking for pumping bras, that’s up my alley. Check out these articles:

Good luck pumping!


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