Spectra Pump Settings for Best Results & Optimal Milk Output

This guide will provide instructions on how to set up and use the Spectra pump settings for best results.

Breastfeeding is a natural process that many mothers choose to do. It has many benefits for both the mother and child, such as providing the child with necessary nutrients, antibodies, and minerals. Breast milk is also easier for the child to digest than formula.

Using the Spectra pump can be intimidating at first. But the Spectra pump is a popular choice among mothers who need to use a pump. Here is a guide to get the most out of your pump. Try it and adjust it to your needs.

What do the cycles mean on the Spectra pump?

Cycles on the Spectra Pump means how many times the pump will copy the speed of a baby’s suck. The number tells how many times per minute it will pump. A higher number means faster pumping, while a lower number means slower pumping. The recommended number is generally two or three cycles per minute.

What do the suction levels mean on the Spectra pump?

Suctions on the Spectra Pump mean how much suction it will apply to the breast while pumping. A higher number means more suction, while a lower number means less suction.

You can start with suction level 1 and move all the way up to suction level 8 after you are past the letdown stage.

What is the letdown mode?

The letdown mode is a setting on your breast pump that imitates the way a baby would suck to stimulate your milk flow. These are short, fast, and shallow movements until your letdown has started.

This mode is useful for getting your milk flowing going when you start pumping. All of the Spectra pumps (S1, S2, S9+, and M1) have this mode with the cycle speed of 70 pumps per minute.

While you are in this massage or letdown mode, the suction won’t be as powerful to mimic how a baby would suck. It is recommended to switch the suction settings once the milk starts flowing in order to get more milk out.

Should I pump on the highest setting?

It’s important to pump at the level that you are comfortable with. If you are comfortable at a higher level, it’s OK to pump at that level. If you are not comfortable, go down to the lower setting until you have adapted to the pump.

It can be uncomfortable or even painful if you clamp down too hard on your breast while pumping. You will want to make sure that you don’t apply too much pressure when pumping.

If you pump at too high of a setting that is comfortable for you, you can actually constrict the milk flow instead of getting more milk.

Remember: if it hurts, you should go down one level in suction and speed until you are comfortable with using the pump. Make sure that you know how to use your Spectra pump properly before attempting to do so.

How long should you pump in letdown mode?

You will want to pump in the letdown mode for about 2 to 3 minutes or until your milk is flowing.

While you are in massage mode, start with suction 1 and slowly increase to suction 4 or 5, until your milk has started to let down.

Can I pump in letdown mode?

Letdown or massage mode is great for getting your letdown to get started but it is much more efficient to switch to a slower and deeper suction to get the optimal pumping output.

close up of spectra breast pump with labels of buttons and settings

Pump settings for optimal milk output

Start with letdown mode on cycle 70 and vacuum level 1 and slowly increase it to 4 or 5 for the first 2 to 3 minutes. 

To start out your pumping session, press the massage button. This will put you in massage mode.

Start out at a low suction and increase it up to 5. When your milk starts flowing well, switch to expression mode (by pressing the wavy button) to continue expressing milk.

Use cycle 54 and vacuum level 5 for 3 – 5 minutes

Once you have switched into expression mode, you want to decrease the cycles and increase how much suction you use.

Every few minutes, push the down button on your cycle speed and the up button on your suction. This will help you hit the lowest level, which is 38.

Switch back to cycle 70 and vacuum level 3 or 4 for 2 – 3 minutes

Once your milk has slowed down or has completely stopped, switch back to the massage mode/ pump cycle speed 70 and lower the suction level to 3 or 4 to try to get another letdown.

Use cycle 46 and vacuum level 6 for 3 – 5 minutes

Lower to cycle speed to 46 until your milk flow slows or completely stops again.

Switch back to cycle 70 and vacuum level 4 or 5 for 2- 3 minutes

This will ensure that you have fully emptied your breasts to prevent clogged ducts, as well as create more demand to up breast milk production and increase milk supply.

If you do have another letdown, then move on to the next setting.

Use cycle 42 and vacuum level 6 or 7 for 5 minutes

Your milk flow will be slower towards the end, this is called the hindmilk and is the fattier part of the milk.

When your milk separates in the fridge, this is the creamier part that is at the top of the bottle.

Hind milk is an important part of milk for your baby that keeps them full longer. You can read more about foremilk and hindmilk here.

Use cycle 38 and suction level 7 or 8 for 5 minutes

Lastly, lower to cycle speed to 38 and up the vacuum level to 7 or 8 or whatever you feel comfortable with to ensure you have removed all of the milk from your breasts.

How many times to pump if you are exclusively pumping

In the beginning and before your baby is eating solids, you should be pumping to at least 120 minutes a day. You should pump 8-12 times a day for around 20-30 minutes.

You can read more at How Often Should I Pump?

Once solids are introduced, you should reduce it to 6 – 10 times a day.

The lower settings are better for stimulation and keep the milk supply up. The higher settings are good when you need to remove all the milk from your breasts.

You can find my pumping schedule at Breastfeeding and Solids Schedule for 6 Month Old Babies

How many times to pump if you are breastfeeding and pumping

That depends on your personal needs. If you are trying to build a freezer stash then you will want to pump more than someone that wants a bottle here and there for date night.

I have an entire post on How to Establish a Breastfeeding and Pumping Schedule with a ton of sample schedules.

You can pump 3 or more times a day if you are also breastfeeding your baby and are wanting to do a combo of the two.

Be sure to read How Much Milk Should I Be Pumping?

Maintaining your pump

You will need to sterilize your Spectra breast pump before you use it for the first time. This does not include the tubing, which will always need to stay dry.

After each use, it is recommended to wash your pumping parts (except the tubing) with warm soapy water. If you are using a dishwasher for your parts and bottles, just be sure to place them on the top rack to prevent warping.

If the outside of your pump motor ever gets dirty, just wipe it down with a damp cloth. Never get your pump motor wet as it isn’t waterproof.

How often you should replace your pumping parts

Breast pumps can endure a lot of use and they aren’t made to last forever. I use my pump for two years and really started to notice the motor losing it’s strength after some time.

For the flanges or your breast shield, you will want to replace these every 6 months.

As for the tubing, you will need to replace them if they ever get wet and have moisture inside them.

The duckbill valve will need to be replaced every 1 to 3 months depending on how much you are using it.

Lastly, the backflow protectors will have to be replaced every 3 months if you are using it multiple times a day or just every 6 months if you use it once a day.

Do I need a pumping bra?

Pumping bras are a great tool to have to keep your sanity when you pump often. It can be hard having your hands tied to a pump when you need to take care of your baby or multiple kids.

I love the Kindred Bravely pumping and breastfeeding bra. It’s great if you are wanting to do a combination of both but don’t want to switch bras every time you go to pump or breastfeed.

Final thoughts

To get the most out of your Spectra breast pump, it’s important to set it up properly and use the correct settings. We’ve provided a cheat sheet with the perfect settings for optimal milk output. You can also read more about how often to pump and how long to pump in order to maintain your milk supply. Be sure to keep your pumping parts clean and replace them as needed for optimal results.

Be sure to read When to Start Pumping Breast Milk and How to Triple Feed Your Baby with a Sample Schedule.

About the author

Lacy Reason is a highly experienced and compassionate lactation counselor, who has dedicated her career to educating and supporting new mothers on their breastfeeding journey.

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