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.

Empty breasts make milk faster than full breasts

FULL/EMPTY BREASTS

While it seems counterintuitive, the emptier your breasts are, the faster they make milk. A full bread has no place to store or hold the milk, so milk production slows to prevent plugged ducts and breast discomfort. Cluster feeding on an emptier breast actually tells the body to make more milk at a faster rate!! Some incorrectly assume you have to wait for the breast to “fill up” before feeding your baby or for pumping while at work. This will eventually lead to less milk, as a fuller breast tells your body baby isn’t eating very often and to slow milk production. The more frequent you empty the breast, the higher the fat content in that milk and the faster milk is made. The longer often you wait and the fuller the breast, the higher the water content in that milk and the slower your body will make milk overall.

W atch the baby, not the clock. Breasts may feel really full between feedings in the first few weeks after birth, but they’re also not supposed to stay engorged. There will come a time when they stay soft and don’t feel full between feedings or pumping, so waiting for that as a cue to feed will also sabotage your supply. Don’t be alarmed when your breasts no longer feel full between feeding. You’re entering a new stage where you’ll still make plenty of milk for your baby as long as you’re routinely emptying that milk. Trust your body. Trust your baby.

How often should I breastfeed or pump?

BREAST STORAGE CAPACITY

The size of your breast has nothing to do with the amount of milk you will make. The size of your breast is determined by the amount of fatty tissue in the breast. The amount of milk you will make is determined by the amount of glandular tissue in the breast that makes milk. This glandular tissue starts growing during puberty. It increases during pregnancy and is part of what accounts for the increase in breast size during pregnancy. Everyone’s storage capacity is different.. just like every breast size is different. However breast size does NOT equal breast storage.

Small capacity: Approx 2-3 ounces per feeding/pump. Baby may need frequent feedings: 10-12 per day. Baby usually takes both breasts and may want each breast twice. Parent feels uncomfortable quickly between feedings and sees a supply drop with more than 3-4 hours between feedings

Medium capacity: Approx 3-4 oz per feeding/pump. Baby may feed 8+ times per day. Baby may take one breast or both breasts each feeding. Parent feels uncomfortable and see a supply drop with more than 4-5 hours between feedings

Large capacity: Approx 4-6 oz per feeding/pump. Baby may feed 6+ times per day. Baby may only take one breast per feeding. Parent may go up to 6 hours without seeing a drop in supply

XLarge capacity: 8+ oz per feeding/pump. Baby may feed 6+ times per day. Baby may only take one breast and parent may still feel full in that breast. Some babies may be gassy from higher foremilk intake as they may not drain the breast fully. Parent may go 6+ hours without seeing a supply drop. Parent may still feel uncomfortable between feedings depending on how quickly the milk fills the breast

All capacities have the same ability to feed baby well as long as the breast is routinely being emptied.

IUDs and Breast Milk Supply

Where did my breast milk go?

BIRTH CONTROL AND MILK SUPPLY

An IUD is a form of birth control that’s put into your uterus to prevent pregnancy. One of the most common forms of birth control, it’s long-term, reversible, and considered one of the most effective birth control methods. Many doctors will encourage new mothers to have them placed between 4-6 weeks postpartum checkup to prevent pregnancies too close together. The Paragard IUD is wrapped in copper and doesn’t have hormones. The Mirena, Kyleena, Liletta, and Skyla IUDs use the hormone progestin to prevent pregnancy. Be aware that each IUD has a different amount of progestin. They are not created equal. Progestin is also the hormone found in the mini pill.

Hormonal IUDs and the mini pill are often recommended by doctors as the best form of birth control for breastfeeding mothers because most of the research that is available says that they don’t impact breast milk supply. And many who use these methods don’t experience any drop in supply. For some, though, both the mini pill and the hormonal IUDs will drop breast milk supply, some times drastically. Every body is sensitive to different levels of hormones. If you have an IUD placed and notice a drop in supply, the only way to increase supply again is to remove the IUD. Increased pumping or herbal supplements will usually not be enough to increase supply again because you’re working against hormones. The only way to rebound supply would be to remove the IUD. If you’re considering a hormonal based IUD and aren’t sure if your supply will drop, consider taking a few rounds of the mini pill (progestin only) which is the same hormone as the IUD. If your supply drops, you only have to stop taking the pill and your supply will rebound much quicker.

Did you use a hormone based birth control? Did you notice a change in your breast milk supply?

Breast milk supply drop at six months

SIX MONTH DROP

For the first six months after birth, baby is supposed to be on an exclusive breast milk diet. At six months and beyond your breast milk goes through a major change. The volume of milk slowly drops because baby is eating and drinking other foods. They may also be sleeping longer at night and are more active during the day. Your milk is super smart and shifts with this drop to have more antibodies and a higher fat content. The breast makes milk based on how it is emptied and what your hormones are doing based on how old baby is. Your hormones are also shifting and you may start your monthly cycle again. Many experience a further dip in supply around the time with their period. If you’re exclusively breastfeeding, you may notice baby pulling or tugging on your nipple or using their hands to beat your chest while feeding. If you’re pumping, you may slowly start to see less milk each pump session. Usually months 5-7 are the hardest from a baby behavior perspective and it settles out again as baby eats more table food and your hormones adjust. If breastfeeding is your goal, just keep offering the breast and pumping often.

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

Dropping breast milk supply

Feel like your breast milk supply is dropping? It may be normal. The uterus doesn’t tell the breasts how many babies came out. Immediately after birth, hormones cause the breast to go into overdrive to try to figure out how many babies were born…to feed them ALL.

The breast makes milk by being emptied and learns your babies habits and how much milk it needs to make with time and experience. In the early weeks your breasts have extra blood and fluid support to help your breast tissue make milk. This is what makes you aware of the filling and emptying of milk. This extra fluid support goes away around 6-8 weeks and you’ll no longer feel that full/soft feeling. By 10-14 weeks your breasts become more EFFICIENT and only want to make what is routinely emptied. Your breasts will go back to prepregnancy size. You may stop leaking (if you leaked) and not be able to pump as much. That’s NORMAL.

Your body doesn’t want to make milk that isn’t needed. You biological body doesn’t know what a freezer is or that you’re trying to collect that leaking milk for later. Your body wants to be as efficient as possible and make only what is being routinely removed from the breast. It costs your body energy to make milk: about 20 calories per ounce of milk made. Your body doesn’t want to burn calories to make milk that’s not being regularly emptied so it can use those calories for things like your brain function. Because mom brain is real.

So before you reach for formula thinking you don’t have enough milk. Realize that when everything is going normal your milk supply is supposed to regulate and your breast aren’t supposed to stay engorged and full forever. Your body is efficient. As long as baby continues to make good wet and dirty diapers, has a pain free latch where you’re hearing baby swallow, feeding baby in demand and not to the clock, and baby gains weight over time, you body is just doing what it’s supposed to do. You can always increase supply by feeding or pumping more often and decrease supply by feeding or pumping less.

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#normalizebreastfeeding #normalizenormalbodies #postpartumbody #milksupply #milksupplyissues #makingmilk

How can I make more breast milk?

The best way to lose weight is to be in a calorie deficit. Choosing the right foods, protein, fruits and vegetables with moderation of carbs, sugars and starches is guaranteed for most to lose extra pounds. Sure, exercise helps. It helps burn calories, again contributing to calorie deficit. But exercise alone won’t help you lose weight if you’re still eating a high calorie diet. Sure, going vegetarian or vegan or doing Weight Watchers or Atkins or any other “diet” helps. It helps you monitor intake to be in a calorie deficit. But even on any diet plan, if you’re not following it correctly and still eating high amounts of foods you won’t lose weight. Certain people do better on certain diets or with specific exercise programs because of how their specific body handles and processes food, vitamins, stress, movement, and all of the other factors like environment and genetics. Finding a nutritionist, weight loss coach, or personal trainer helps you look at your specific body and goals and helps you reach them. You can absolutely get there in your own, having someone counsel you through often gets you quicker results from their experience and wisdom. But the principle remains: calorie deficit is the number one way to lose weight.

The best way to make breast milk is to empty breast milk. Whether that’s your baby or a high quality breast pump, moving milk multiple times a day tells the body to make more milk. The more often milk is removed, the faster it is made. Sure, supplements help. They support your thyroid and blood with the extra nutrients and hormones needed to produce milk. But supplements alone is no replacement for moving milk. You can take the best lactation bars and drink all the tea you want, but without emptying the breast every few hours routinely I wouldn’t expect the majority of us to make enough milk to feed baby. Sure, hydration and nutrition are important. It takes calories to make calories and hydration help with that process. But even the research shows women who are malnourished in famine torn countries make plenty of milk for their babies when baby is allowed unrestricted access to the breast. Yes, adding in chia seed, flax seed, oats, nuts and nut butters, and coconut water helps make milk. Certain people do better on certain herbs and foods because of how their specific body handles and processes food, vitamins, stress, hormones, and all of the other factors like anatomy and genetics. Finding a lactation consultant, peer counselor, or trained doula helps you look at your specific body and goals and helps you reach them. You can absolutely get there in your own, having someone counsel you through often gets you quicker results from their experience and wisdom. But the principle remains: emptying milk from the breast is the number one way to make breast milk.

Pumping while away from baby helps maintain your supply

How to build a breast milk stash

You don’t need to have a stash. If you want to exclusively breastfeed and are never away from your baby, you don’t need any milk in your freezer. You don’t need a huge stash if you’re going to be gone from baby. It’s nice to have stored up milk, but that milk is extra milk. Feed the baby, not the freezer. You only need enough milk for when you’re away from baby. If you’re only going to be gone for 2-3 hours, you may not need any milk at all. Feed your baby immediately before you leave. If baby becomes fussy before you get home, have your caregiver take baby on a walk, distract with toys or use a pacifier and feed them as soon as you walk in the door. If you’re going to be gone more than 3 hours, you only need to have enough milk for the time you’re gone. Optimally if baby is being fed by bottle, to maintain your milk supply, you should be pumping, thus replacing the milk from your stash that was used.

There are several ways to build your stash

🍼Passively collect with a milk catcher like a Lacticup or Milkies Milk Saver. No extra work needed, this works great in the early weeks if you leak

🍼Use manual silicone breast pump like the Haakaa. While these look passive, the vacuum created does stimulate the breast and can increase leaking and milk supply

🍼If you have a large to very large storage capacity and only feed from one breast at a time, pump the other breast during or after feeding baby

🍼Pump with a double electric pump, after breastfeeding, for 10-15 minutes. Only expect to get 1/4-1 ounce as this is “left over” milk that your baby doesn’t need.

🍼Pump with a double electric pump in between breastfeedings when you think baby may take a longer nap. Aim to pump half way between when you think baby will want to feed again. If you think baby will go 2 hours, pump after an hour, etc. try not to pump too close to the next feed as baby may get fussy at the slower flow of milk.

Remember:

🥛Decide how often and how much you want to pump/collect. Know that the more you empty, the more you will make as you’re telling your body baby needs that milk.

🥛Too much pumping or frequently changing your pump routine does increase your risk of plugged ducts and mastitis

🥛You can combine 24 hours of milk into one batch

🥛Breastfed babies usually only need 2-4 ounces every 2-4 hours. Aim to leave 1-1.5 ounces for every hour you’re gone

Where did my milk go?

What can cause a late onset decreased milk supply?

1.The mother is pregnant again. Milk supply decreases during pregnancy. Domperidone will not work when the mother is pregnant.

2.The mother is taking some hormonal birth control method (pill including progestin only pill, IUD, etc)

3.The mother is breastfeeding on only one side at a feeding or “block feeding” (several feedings in a row on the same breast, used to treat “overabundant milk ejection, “overabundant milk supply”). I have posted on “block feeding” previously.

4.Some medications other than hormones can decrease the milk supply (antihistamines for example).

5.Can an emotional shock decrease the milk supply? Possible but unusual in our experience.

6.Blocked ducts/mastitis as well as any febrile illness may decrease the milk supply.

7.The use of bottles more than occasionally can very much decrease the milk supply.

8.”Overdoing it”. It’s time that others do most of the usual chores that fall on women’s shoulders.

9.An “abundant milk supply” associated with a less than “ideal” latch. In this situation, the milk flows into the baby’s mouth with little participation of the baby. The baby may often choke while breastfeeding, especially when the mother has a milk ejection reflex. A tongue tie is a common cause of a baby having a less than “ideal” latch and can be a significant cause of late onset decreased milk supply even if neither the mother or the baby had problems early on.

This problem of late onset decreased milk supply and accompanying symptoms is typically the problem of the mother who once had an abundant milk supply and milk supply may still be quite good, but less than it once was.