How to use my Spectra Breast Pump: Maximizing settings, suction and cycle levels

Different stages of pumping require different pump settings. The wonderful thing about the Spectra pumps is their cycle variability.

Check out my video on YouTube for how to set and use the Spectra pump.

Colostrum is thick and sticky. Pumps are great for stimulating milk but they’re not the best at removing it from the breast and it can be very frustrating to pump and not see anything filling the bottles. Don’t be discouraged. Stimulation is super important in the early days after birth and the work will pay off. hand expression is the key to emptying colostrum when pumping. The pump will do a good job to stimulate your hormones to make milk and your hands will help empty it.

If you’re engorged or have an oversupply, you may need to pump to relieve the pressure in your breasts. Using the pump wisely can reduce your engorgment while not causing you to make too much milk and perpetuate your problem.

You can also pump to increase milk supply by pumping for an extra 5 minutes after milk stops flowing to signal to your body that it needs to produce more milk. If you’re breastfeeding and pumping after, aim for a 10-15 minute pump. If you’re exclusively pumping, shoot for a 30 minute pump.

Whether you’re pumping at work to maintain supply or trying to increase your supply, using the settings on the Spectra can help you reach your goals. Have you played around with your settings? What works for one person may not work for another. Try alternating back and forth between the settings and play around with the suction and cycle levels. If you need to have the suction cranked to the top, you’re most likely using too large of a flange.

Everyone responds differently to pumps. Play around the settings and cycles. What works for one person may not work for every person. Make sure your suction level is comfortable and you’re using the correct sized flange. If you have to crank the suction all the way up, you’re pumping with a flange that’s too large. Pumping should be comfortable. You should not have pain or damage from pumping. If you have any pain or damage, try a different range size, shape or cushion and try lowering the suction. If you’ve been pumping on a particular set of settings and start to notice a decrease in supply or suction, change the soft pieces of the pump like the duckbill or membranes and the tubing.

Best bottle for the breastfed baby

DON’T FALL FOR THE MARKETING

There are lots of bottles on the market. And so many of them are marketed to be “most like the breast”. Let me tell you a secret. There is no bottle that works like the breast. Don’t fall for the marketing. The breast is a complex organ that works with hormones, compression, suction, positive and negative pressure. It is controlled by the baby and how the baby sucks. Baby can make your milk flow or not depending on how they suck. It is never empty and constantly making more. It is hormone driven. A bottle is passive. It has a hole that will drip when turned over. Your nipple changes shape to fill baby’s mouth. Your nipple can help fill a high palate. your nipple and a good portion of your areola/breast also need to be in baby’s mouth in a deep latch for milk to be transferred. Your nipple should go in round and come out round. Baby’s tongue should cup and protrude past the lower gums and stay out to massage your nipple/breast in their mouth Baby has to change the shape of their tongue to accommodate the firm bottle nipple. Baby can chomp or mash the nipple and doesn’t need to keep the tongue out because they can compress milk out. Baby can also latch just to the tip of the bottle nipple and still get milk.

We can make the bottle work like the breast, though. By slowing the feeding down or “pacing” the feeding, we can help baby go back and forth between bottle and breast. You want a straight nipple that tapers wide at the base for a “deep” latch. If your baby is just latched to the tip of a bottle nipple they can still get milk. But then their muscles will learn to latch shallow and that’s often why you’ll get a shallow latch with a “small” mouth at the breast. The bottle nipples that are already pinched or tapered are also not good choices. If your nipple came out of baby’s mouth looking like, that you’d have damage within a few days. If your baby struggled at the breast and will only take a bottle nipple that looks flat and pinched there is usually something going on in baby’s mouth and the bottle nipple is compensating for it. Tongue tie is the most common culprit.

LATCHING TO A BOTTLE

Having an optimal latch at the breast reduces nipple pain and prevents damage. Your nipple should go in baby’s mouth round and come out round. If we want to encourage good latch when breastfeeding, we want to do the same when bottle feeding. This helps baby go back and forth without “confusion”.

This can be difficult when a bottle nipple abruptly changes in shape from narrow to wide. Bottle nipples like the Playtex Baby Ventaire Bottle,Tommee Tippee, Avent Natural, Nuby Comfort, and Chicco Naturalfit have narrow nipple tips and wide bases. Babies usually end up latching onto the tip and sucking it like a straw. If baby’s cheeks dimple or suck in when feeding from these bottles, they’re drinking but not demonstrating a wide latch and optimal mouth posture. If they had that same mouth posture on your nipple, they would cause pain and damage. Baby’s don’t drink from the breast like a straw. Conversely, they may try to fit the base of the nipple in their mouth and end up with air pockets where the tip meets the base. This can result in breaking the suction and swallowing excess air while feeding. Nipples like the Nuk Simply Natural and Mam are not round, but pinched or flat. If your nipple looked like that coming out of baby’s mouth we’d be talking about deeper latch or tongue tie.

Bottle nipples that gradually change in shape from narrow at the tip to wider at the base promote a deeper latch. If the nipple stays narrow at the base, like the Similac nipples many hospitals give at birth for supplementing, you’ll want baby’s lips to be able to come up almost to the collar (plastic o-ring base). If the nipple is sloped to gradually widen at the base, baby will be able to get the nipple deeper into their mouth with no air pockets. My favorite sloped nipples include the Pigeon SS Nipple, Lansinoh, Dr Brown’s Original Narrow, Dr Brown’s Wide Neck, Munchkin Latch, and Evenflo Balance, which promote a deeper latch mouth on the nipple.

So what does this mean?! If your baby is already bottle feeding and going back and forth from bottle to breast, don’t sweat it! No need to change anything! If your baby is struggling at the breast and preferring a narrower or non-round nipple, having a full oral motor assessment may help you get back to breast.

If Goldilocks Needed a Breast Pump

IF GOLDILOCKS PUMPED

What pump do you have? What size flange are you using? The answer can make a huge difference in pumping success.

Not all pumps are created equal. Prior to the ACA, there were few pump choices. Once laws said people needed to be provided with a breast pump, and insurance would fit the bill, lots of companies flooded the market with pumps. Not all of them are good, and some will even sabotage your supply. You want a pump with a good motor in it that has lots of variability in the cycle (how fast or slow it pumps) and suction (how strong it sucks).

You also need to be mindful of the flange you’re pumping on. Most companies will send a standard 24mm flange. Sometimes they’ll send a larger size as well. In reality nipples, and thus flanges, are not one size fits all. And in my practice I hardly EVER use the 24 or bigger flanges. For almost all of my families we’re sizing down. Some times significantly smaller.

Flanges are the horn shaped part that actually touch the breast. The fit of the flange can make or break your pumping experience. Too small and friction can cause pain and even damage (and pain makes it difficult for milk to let down). Too large and the breast may not be stimulated well, which inhibits your let down to have milk flow. When too much areola is pulled into the flange, the tissue swells around the nipple pores and can prevent milk from efficiently emptying from the breast, resulting in plugged ducts, pain, tissue breakdown, and eventually a reduced milk supply. Using too large of a flange from the beginning may even prevent you from bringing in a full milk supply. Do you ever pump for 20+ minutes and still feel like there’s milk in there? Most likely too large of a flange. The stimulation from the pump is triggering you to make more milk, but the size of the flange is preventing you from emptying that milk efficiently. Poor flange fit can also impact the suction of your pump and how well it functions with your body. If you have the suction all the way to the highest level and aren’t emptying well, you flange is too big.

Flange fit tips:

Some of the flanges I tried

🗝Flange fit isn’t based on your breast or areola size, it is JUST the size of the nipple and how it changes with suction. Some nipples are dense and don’t stretch much. Some are super elastic and swell a lot. How your nipple responds to suction can make a difference in which flange you select and if other products are needed to happy pump

🗝Proper fit isn’t as simple as measuring your nipple, but it’s a start. See a trained IBCLC to help if you haven’t found the right fit or are struggling with poor output, pain/damage, or plugged ducts

🗝A small amount of space around your nipple in the flange tunnel is good. There should be no space around the areola or in the larger bell part of the flange. If your breast tissue recoils back into the horn part of the flange with every cycle, the flange is too large. If the tissue is white where the tunnel meets the horn, the flange is too small

🗝Pain or blanching means it’s the wrong size

🗝Nipples rubbing against the sides of the flange tunnel mean fit needs to be improved and there is a risk of pain and damage

🗝There should only be a small amount of areola pulled in the flange tunnel space. The bell or horn part will have most of the areola held back so it doesn’t get pulled into the tunnel

🗝The nipple tip shouldn’t hit the back of the flange. This means you have an elastic nipple. Sizing up isn’t necessarily the right answer. Using a pump insert, cushion like @beaugenmom or @pumpinpalofficial may be a better solution

🗝Evaluate as you pump. You can changing flange size mid-pump to improve comfort if you’re between sizes. You may also need to change the flange size the longer you pump. Our nipples can become more elastic and larger or smaller with time.

🗝Every nipple is unique and each side may use a different size (or shape/brand!). There are all kinds of flange sizes, inserts, and cushions to improve the pump experience

Paced bottle feeding

Paced bottle feeding (meaning you’re setting the pace for how fast/slow baby drinks) helps prevent over feeding baby: it takes 20 minutes for the stomach to tell the brain that it’s full. If a baby takes a bottle too quickly, the mouth can still be “hungry” and wanting to suck when the stomach is actually full. Like going to an all you can eat buffet and eating a lot of food quickly and then realizing half hour later you ate way too much. A baby that happily sucks down too much milk from a bottle can make you think you don’t have enough breast milk even if you make a normal amount. It can also make baby frustrated by the flow of milk from the breast and inadvertently sabotage breastfeeding

These pictures are the same baby in two different positions for paced feeding: semi upright and side lying. Side lying is my favorite position to use as it puts baby in the same position as breastfeeding. Many parents feel baby is more supported in this position. Baby is supported by your leg or breastfeeding pillow.

Tips:

🍼Never feed baby on their back

🍼Keep the bottle parallel with the floor with about half the nipple filled with milk

🍼Use the slowest flow nipple baby will tolerate

🍼Rub the nipple gently on baby’s lips, allow baby to latch at their own pace, don’t force it into their mouth

🍼It should take 15-20 minutes to finish the bottle

🍼Watch the baby and not the bottle, stop when they show signs of being full

🍼Resist the urge to finish the bottle, even if there is only a little left, when baby is showing signs their tummy is full

🍼Take short breaks to burp and give the tummy time to fill naturally

🍼If baby is gulping or chugging, slow down

🍼If baby has taken a good volume of milk (2-4oz) in a short amount of time and is still acting hungry, offer a pacifier for a few minutes to help them digest and give the tummy to to tell the brain it’s full. If they’re still hungry, slowly offer more in 1/2oz increments

Pumping Log: pumping for a toddler

As  babies grow, there needs for milk also change. During the first year of life, after one month of age, babies need 20 to 30 ounces of milk per day. This need does not change until your baby reaches the first year milestone. From 1 to 2 years, babies need approximately 15 to 25 ounces of milk per 24 hour period. They get the rest of their nutrients from solid foods taken right from the table. Interestingly enough, infants need more calories but less protein than toddlers. Toddlers need fewer calories, but more protein in those calories. Just as your child’s nutrient needs to change, so does your breast milk. I have noticed a big drop in my pumped milk supply even though my daughter is still nursing. My daughter still nurses voraciously when she wakes up, kind of nurses when I get home, and usually nurses once in the middle of the night. When I’m home all day with her she does fewer nursing sessions and is SO easily distracted by herself and the environment. But she’s growing, is still having good wet and dirty diapers, and is happy!!! She is like a solid food vacuum.  She LOVES all kinds of berries, fruit, peas and carrots, beans, pasta, cheese and yogurt, chicken, beef, pork, and eggs.  She eats a nice variety with good toddler portions. Happy Pumping!!!

Wednesday: two pump sessions. Approx 4 ounces.

Thursday: 3 pump sessions, approx 6 ounces

Friday: Two pump sessions, approx 4 ounces

Natural Weaning from the Breast

NATURAL WEANING

Natural weaning is the biological process of gradually decreasing milk supply as baby gets older. This process starts around 7-9 months as baby takes more solid foods and progresses toward sleeping longer stretches at night. It ends when baby finally weans (which may not be until 2-3 years old!!). Natural weaning doesn’t mean that you need to wean baby from the breast. Decreasing milk supply doesn’t mean you’re at risk of losing your supply, either. Your breast is designed to match the stage of development your baby is in. 

Milk supply iss highest from month 1-6 when baby is going through multiple growth spurts. They need to double their birth weight by 6 months. Milk is also the only food in their diet.  Therefore, your milk supply is supposed to be at its highest to meet their nutritional needs. From 6-12 months, weight gain slows but their need for milk volume needs remain stable. It is natural as baby transitions from a full milk diet to a milk+solids diet to then a solids+milk diet that breast milk supply will shift along with it. Your milk supply varies compared to baby’s solids intake and there is a wide range of normal based on your individual baby. Some babies love solids and eat them in large quantities many times a day. Other babies continue on a mostly milk diet until almost 1 year.  At 12 months, milk finally takes a back seat to solids, but still fills in nutritional gaps and acts like medicine against illness. From 12 months on there continues to be a wide range of normal for milk supply depending on your child’s eating and feeding habits. Some babies continue to nurse occasionally over night while others seem to become boob barnacles again and would happily stay on the breast all day, every day.

So what does this mean? If you’re exclusively breastfeeding you may not notice anything.  You can continue to bring baby to breast for as long and often as baby wants. You may notice baby spacing out feedings or not nursing as long. They may want the breast more when teething or going through growth spurts or developmental leaps. They have days with little interest in the breast. 

Moms who pump (either exclusively or because of work) report overflowing milk in the early weeks, often able to pump 4-6 or even 8-10 ounces in a morning pump session. By 4 months supply regulates and mom gets about 3-5 ounces per pump in place of a feeding. By 9 or 10 months it can feel like your trying to wring out a wet rag to get even 2-4 ounces a pump session. As long as baby has unrestricted access to the breast when your not working and you still have a regular pump routine in place no intervention is usually needed. Every journey is supposed to look different because it is your unique journey.

Photo Credit Jermaine Love
@jermainelove44

One Breast or Two?

SHOULD I OFFER ONE BREAST OR TWO WHEN BREASTFEEDING?

Just as no rule says you must eat the same amount at every meal, there’s no rule that says your baby must eat from both sides every feeding.

  • Factors that play a role in offering one side or two include your individual breast storage capacity, and milk supply, when your last feeding was, and your unique baby’s volume needs.
  • Storage capacity is not indicated by breast size, but by glandular tissue in the breast. People with lots of glandular tissue have a higher storage capacity in each breast regardless of the actual breast size. Their babies may only want one side per feeding as each side makes plenty of milk. Some people have smaller storage capacities and their babies will want to feed off of both sides (maybe even multiple times!) to get what they want.
  • You will get to know your breast storage capacity and how quickly your breasts make milk as you get to know your body and your baby.  Every feeding can also be different. There’s no right or wrong. Sometimes a baby will want both breasts if they’re really hungry and sometimes they’ll want only one when they just want to comfort nurse to sleep. Some times you may feel like you’re offering each breast 5 or 6 times in a feeding, rotating constantly!! NORMAL!!! Trust your baby and your body. You can always offer the second breast/side but don’t feel stressed if your baby doesn’t always want it. 

BREASTS ARE SISTER, NOT TWINS

You may also feel like baby always prefers one side or even does better feeding on one side!! That’s because breasts are sisters and not twins!!!! One side can be bigger, one side can make more. Nipples can even be different shapes and sizes, making one side easier to latch to from purely an anatomical perspective.

  • Around 70% of us produce more milk on the right. Which means 30% make more on the left. 
  • It is VERY common for one side to produce more than the other, often double. This is not a reason to neglect one side. You want to make sure you rotate which side you offer first. This can also cause one breast to be significantly larger than the other especially if you continue to only feed from one side.
  • Babies may prefer one side over the other for various reasons
    • They like to lay with their head in a certain direction
    • They prefer the flow (one side may flow faster or slower than the other)
    • They may prefer the flavor (YES!! Milk can taste different from each side during the same feeding!!)
    • They may have tension in their body from positioning during pregnancy or from trauma during birth.
  • If you want to help balance out a slacker boob, you can try offering the slacker first more often.
  • Ending on the slacker can also help, especially if baby just wants to use you like a pacifier.
  • Pumping the slacker side after feedings can also help stimulate more milk production.

Don’t stress too much about a slacker boob if it’s not an issue. If baby is happy, there’s really no need to fret over differences between your breasts. If you start to notice one side is increasing in cup sizes significantly from the other, schedule a consultation and we can get to the root of why baby only wants one side and we can work on it together.

Foremilk/Hindmilk and Making Fattier Milk

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How can I make fattier milk? I get this question a lot. Fat in breast milk changes constantly both throughout the day and as baby ages. It is predominantly influenced by how full/empty the breast is which tells your body how old your baby is. Newborns nurse around the clock and have a higher milk fat content than toddlers who may only nurse a handful of times a day and are getting their fats from table foods. Your diet does not usually have an effect on the quantity of fat present in breast milk but it can change the type- saturated, trans, monounsaturated, polyunsaturated.

I often get questions about foremilk/hindmilk as related to making a fattier milk. But what is fore milk/hindmilk? Is that even a thing? The breast only makes one type of milk, however, because of the way milk is released during a feeding, the fat content can change. Fats make up about 3-5% of the nutrients of breast milk and each ounce of contains about 1.2 grams of fat. Milk is made in the alveoli, which are grape-like clusters of cells at the back of the breast. Once the milk is made, it is squeezed out through the alveoli into the milk ducts, which resemble highways and carry the milk through the breast to the nipple. As milk is produced, fat globules in the milk stick to each other and to the walls of the milk ducts. As time passes, milk gradually moves toward the nipple as the breasts fill, pushing the thin watery milk forward while leaving the denser and fattier hindmilk behind (because the fat is sticking to the walls of the ducts). Shorter time between feedings or pumping a help keep the hind milk at the front of the breast. Think of it like turning on a faucet in the sink. 

At first, the water comes out cold and then gradually gets warmer until it is hot. If you come back a minute later and turn the faucet on again, it will still be relatively warm. However, if wait an hour, the water will be cold. You’ll have to wait for it to warm up again. Breast milk fat is similar.

When the baby first latches on, the higher-water content foremilk is released. Little by little the milk becomes fattier as fat globules are pulled down from the ducts. Frequent feedings or pumping mean the milk doesn’t have time to “get cold.” There is no switch that gets flipped – the change from foremilk to hindmilk is gradual. There is less foremilk for your baby to go through before they get to the fattier milk. Basically, the less time in between feedings, the higher the fat content at the beginning of that particular feeding.

Here are the best strategies to help increase the fat in your milk:

📌Nurse or pump more frequently. The fullness of the breast makes the most difference with the amount of fat in your milk. The fuller the breast, the more water content is in your milk because your body thinks baby is dehydrated from going a long time without feeding or that you have an older baby that is getting fats from table foods. The shorter amount of time you go between feeding or pumping, the higher the fat content in your milk. You will see a smaller volume, but a higher fat content.

📌Drain the breast. Let your baby completely finish on one side before switching to the other side. Emptier breast’s have higher milk fat content. 

📌Use your hands. Compressing and massaging the breast from the chest wall down toward the nipple while feeding and/or pumping helps push fat (made at the back of the breast in the ducts) down toward the nipple faster. 

📌Eat more healthy, unsaturated fats, such as nuts, wild caught salmon, avocados, seeds, eggs, and olive oil. 

📌 Increase your protein intake. This helps increase overall milk supply, which = more  fat for your baby. Lean meats, chicken, fish, eggs, dairy, nuts, and seeds are the best dietary sources of protein. Vegetarians if you do not get enough protein from your food alone, consider adding a protein supplement in your routine.

📌Sunflower lethicin. Often used to relieve frequently blocked ducts, this supplement works by decreasing the stickiness of breast milk by mixing the fatty parts of breast milk with the watery parts to make it “slide out” easier. Some people believe that this helps increase the fatty acids in milk at the beginnings of feedings, too. 

Switching baby too quickly from breast to breast while they are still actively sucking means that they aren’t getting enough time to let the fattier hindmilk unstick from the milk ducts.

 

TAKE AWAY:

Depending on your nursing pattern, it’s possible for fat content to be higher at the beginning of a particular feeding than it is at the end of other feedings. The longer the time between feedings, the lower the fat content at the beginning of the next feeding. If feedings are closer together, you’re starting off with a higher fat content. 

Because every baby varies in the amount of time it takes him to receive his fill of the higher-fat milk at the end of the feeding, it’s important not to switch breasts while baby is actively nursing.

 

Pumping for a toddler

The number one complaint I get my mothers going back to work is a drop in supply when they start to pump. They go from seeing tons of milk to very little. Pumping at work is a PITA. You have to be very committed to it and depending on your job it can be stressful or difficult to get away to pump. What most women don’t seem to understand about Breastfeeding is that the more milk you remove the more milk you will make. You can’t just will your body to make the same amount of milk whether you pump once or six times. The science doesn’t work that way.

Through the first year of life, I recommend mothers pump three times on an 8 hour shift and four times on a 12 hour shift. Remember, I recommend leaving the same number of ounces as number of hours you will be gone. If you’re gone 8 hours, you only need to leave 8 ounces. Make sure your caregivers are doing paced bottle feedings and not accidentally sabotaging your milk supply. Mothers can add in additional pump sessions by pumping in the car with the battery operated pump. Once your baby turns a year, and his or her milk needs decrease; as long as they are taking a healthy amount of solid foods mom can drop down to pumping twice or three times a shift.

As your Toddler continues to grow, you can make the decision to add in another milk/milk substitute, continue to pump, or just breastfeed when you are home and have caregivers give water depending on how much you are gone from your older toddler.

My last pump session at work. cheers.

Breastfeeding will working is a large commitment. I know this full well. These are the guidelines I followed with my own daughter. Up until she was 12 months, I pumped 3 times on my 8 hour shift. I had decided at 17 months to stop pumping while at work and just feed my daughter when I was home. However she had other plans 🙂 she constantly asks for May May, which is her word for my milk, while I am gone. So I was back to pumping just once a day and mixing my small amount of breastmilk with flax milk. She eats off of me like a barracuda when I walk in the door. (I think she just wants the snuggles). At 18 months I am now no longer pumping at work. She will nurse when she wakes up, when I come home, around bed time at 6:30, and every once in a while she’ll still wake up around 4am for an early morning snack. This is what my tiny human does. You have to figure out what works best for your tiny human, your family, and your health. Happy pumping!

Pumping Log: new guidelines for washing pump parts

According to the CDC’s new guidelines, here is how best to care for your pump parts:

  • Wash your hands before using your pump, and use disinfectant wipes to clean the outside of your pump.
  • After every use, take apart the pump parts and rinse them under running water. Don’t put them directly in the sink!
  • Clean your pump parts as soon as possible with hot, soapy water in a wash basin and brush used only for cleaning pump parts, or in the dishwasher.
  • Rinse in fresh water (don’t put them back in the same basin).
  • Air dry on a clean dish towel, but don’t rub the parts with the towel as this could spread germs.
  • Rinse your basin and brush, and leave them to air dry. Clean them as well at least every few days.
  • If you’re using the dishwasher, place on a hot water and heated drying cycle, or a sanitize cycle. Wash your hands before taking out the parts, and allow them to air dry.
  • Store items in a clean, protected area only after they’re completely dry.
  1. For the full article, click here.