Are you looking for more information on how to use Spectra S1 breast pump?
Or perhaps, you already have Spectra, but still unable to use it comfortably.
Don't worry, you are not alone.
I've seen some moms use Spectra using the wrong setting, oops..., and that's partially why they are unable to get milk as they are supposed to get.
So, shall we learn how to use Spectra breast pump now?
In this article, I'll discuss in great details how you should pump with your Spectra to maximize your pumping output.
GENERAL PUMPING TIPS
The 3 tips below are not exclusive for Spectra S1 / S2 breast pump. Whatever breast pump brand you use, please check on these things.
1. Make sure you are using correct breast shield size
In case you are wondering what is this, it's the inner size of the 'cone' that you put on your breast). Not only the good-fit allows you to pump comfortably (no pain while pumping), but it also enables you to express the most of your milk.
Original Spectra breast pump comes with 24-mm breast shield. Other than that, Spectra also has 20, 24, 28, and 32 mm breast shield size available (with separate purchase).
If you need bigger or smaller size, I recommend you to take a look at Maymom breast shield set (they sell compatible accessories that can be used with Spectra).
2. Check if your duck-bill valve is in good quality. Or if you are using the newer blue valve - white membrane set, make sure there's no tear and the membrane covers the valve securely (no misalignment).
3. Make sure the connection to the tubing, back-flow protector, and breast shield is secure and tight. Loose connection can affect the suction quality.
I created a video version of this guide, to give you a better clarity how this breast pump works (especially regarding switching between let-down / expression mode). Feel free to read the text below for some extra tips.
Now let's move on to how to operate Spectra S1 breast pump.
HOW TO USE SPECTRA S1 BREAST PUMP
Here is a simple guide on what those buttons on the pump for.
(1) Turning on the breast pump
Press the power button to turn on / off your breast pump.
Now you need to know that Spectra always turns on in expression mode, unlike Medela which automatically turns on with let-down mode.
That means, as soon as you turn on the pump, you need to press another button, let-down button.
PS: A lot of moms have mistaken that the moment Spectra turns on, it's already in let-down mode. Some of them were frustrated how come they can only adjust the vacuum strength up to 5 in expression mode. Turns out, they got it all wrong. One lady in Reddit was not even aware about this for months. So take note, ladies ;).
(2)Switching to let-down mode / massage mode
The let-down button (sometimes also referred as massage button) is indicated as the three-wave button right above the power button. This button allows you to toggle between let-down mode and expression mode.
How do you know you are in which state, let-down or expression mode?
(a)Take a look at the LED display.
When you are in let-down mode, there will be a three-wave icon displayed in the top-left corner of the screen.
In expression mode, this icon will not be displayed (see the picture below).
(b) In let-down mode, you cannot change the cycle speed, it is fixed at 70 cycles per minute. Additionally, you can only adjust the suction strength between 1 to 5. On the other hand, during expression mode, you can adjust the cycle speed and suction strength independently.
Yes, unlike other typical breast pump model, Spectra S1 and Spectra S2 allows you to adjust the vacuum / suction strength and suction speed setting independently.
In other breast pump brand, the higher the vacuum level, the speed will automatically be slower (lower cycle speed).
But in Spectra S1/S2, you can adjust it based on your personal preference.
This is such a great feature, because not all women benefit from slow speed / high vacuum setting.
(3) Here are the suction strength and cycle speed options available in Spectra S1.
Cycle speed: 70
Suction strength: 1-5
Cycle speed: 38. 42, 46, 50, 54 (this number simply means how many times suction is applied to your breast within one minute. E.g. 38 means in one minute the breast pump will apply suction to your breast 38 times.
Suction strength: 1-12
(4) Adjusting the let-down mode
What's the purpose of let-down mode? It's to encourage let-down reflex. If you don't know what let-down is, read this article.
So, if your milk does not spray right away once you turn on the breast pump, it's totally normal. Relax. That's why we use let-down mode to stimulate milk release from the breast.
Once you turn on the breast pump and switch to let-down mode, you can adjust the massage setting.
There's 5 levels you can choose from, cycle speed is kept at 70 cycles / minutes. If you are beginner pumper, start with level 2 or 3. If you need stronger suction, increase to 4 or 5 (use the +/- button on the right). Remember, you should not feel any pain. If there's any pain, that means your suction strength is too high.
Stay in let-down mode until you see milk spraying from your breast. If you are having trouble getting let-down, try some tips in this article. I personally combine a few tips to get my let-down faster.
(5) Adjusting the expression mode
You can switch to expression mode once you see your milk starts flowing.
If you are not sure what setting to use, start with 54 cycles, suction level 5.
You can increase / decrease suction if you feel you need to. Again, remember that you don't need to use the highest suction to get max milk. Use the level that's most comfortable for you. There's no right and wrong here. It's all about personal preference.
Watch how your milk sprays to determine if you need a faster or slower cycle speed. Normally, the higher your suction level, you'll use a slower cycle speed.
However, if your milk stops spraying before the suction stops, you may benefit from increasing the cycle speed. On the other hand, if your milk still sprays a lot at the end of one suction cycle, consider lowering the cycle speed.
You can stay at the same level through out expression mode, and once your milk run dry (not dripping anymore), switch to massage-mode again to get another let-down. Repeat.
(6) Some variations how to use the breast pump throughout your pumping session:
(a) If expression mode feels too strong/painful for you (no matter which suction level you are at), you can always stay in let-down mode.
(b) Some moms gradually increase the suction and lower the speed throughout the expression period. Say, you start with 54/5, then goes all the way up to 38/11. That's entirely up to you, you can experiment on these things. The most important thing is: pumping should not be painful and your breast gets emptied properly.
(c) To pump faster: massage your breast to encourage milk flow, slightly reposition the breast shield to focus on different areas of areola. Don't press too hard ya.. always be gentle to your breast while doing this. Invest in a good hands-free pumping bra so that your hands are free to do all these things.
(d) Follow up with hand-expression / manual pumping to remove milk that can't be removed with breast pump. Do this once your milk stops spraying and before you attempt to get another let-down.
From my experience, Spectra is very efficient in removing milk, but if you are like me, not wanting to waste any single drop, practicing hand-expression / manual pumping will still get you some extra milk (5-15 ml), not bad for some extra milk, heh.
(e) If you need to increase milk supply, once you finish with your pumping routine, let your breast pump run for another 2-5 minutes. You won't see milk spraying, that's fine, but you are telling your breast that you need more milk and this extra stimulation will tremendously help.
(7) Switching to single pumping
Spectra S1 / S2 can be used for both single pumping and double pumping. To switch from double to single pumping, you just need to unplug one of the tubings and cover the plug with the white plastic cap (see the picture below).
(8) Using the night light
Spectra S1 / S2 comes with a night light, which is very handy for moms who regularly pump at night / wee hours.
The night light button is located in the right-most part of the panel (just beside the vacuum level control) and you just need to press the button a few times to choose which brightness level you'd like to use.
I hope this little guide helps you to understand how to use Spectra S1 or S2 breast pump and get the most milk from your breast.
Note that if you are just starting to use Spectra, allow yourself to get accustomed to Spectra setting for a few days - a week. Don't get easily frustrated when you don't get the amount of milk that you want. Keep experimenting and keep learning =).
PS: if you are an experienced pumper who wants to share tips for pumping with Spectra, do share your tips in the comments. Other moms will appreciate your generosity!