35 Spectra S2 Tips: Hacks for Your Breast Pump

As a working mom, I use a breast pump often- usually 4-5 times a day during the work week! I nurse my baby in the evenings and on weekends.  I use both the Spectra S2 and the Medela Pump In Style Advanced (PISA) daily. So I’ve learned quite a few Spectra S2 tips and hacks from using both of these pumps! First, I’ve summarized all the tips into one giant list, then I’ve gone into more detail on each tip towards the bottom!


spectra s2 tips pin

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Summary: All of the Spectra S2 Tips

  1. Check if your insurance, FSA, or HSA cover the purchase of your Spectra S2 (click to view on Amazon) and/or accessories Or click here to jump down for more details
  2. If you are traveling with your S2, even just to work, purchase a tote bag (click to view on Amazon) to carry your pump and accessories (read more here about transporting and traveling with your breast pump)
  3. For travel with your S2, consider purchasing a  car adapter or a portable battery bank from Amazon (more about travel here)
  4. Breast pump wipes (available on Amazon) are great for cleaning your dirty pump parts if you don’t have access to a sink.
  5. Put your S2 on an upholstered surface, like a couch or pillow, to make it even quieter
  6. There is no need to wash the S2’s tubing (more about washing S2 accessories here)
  7. Make sanitizing super simple by sterilizing your parts in a microwaveable sterilizer bag (available on Amazon)
  8. Use a bottle drying rack for your pump parts and bottles after you wash them (available on Amazon)
  9. Consider pumping directly into storage bags using this adapter to save you from having to wash so many bottles (both available on Amazon).
  10. Use the letdown mode, indicated by the wavy lines, at the start of pumping to get the milk flowing faster. Turn it off once milk starts to flow (read more about S2 settings and controls here)
  11. Higher suction does not mean more milk! Experiment with different settings to find what works best for you.  Spectra recommends slowly increasing the settings until you feel slightly uncomfortable, then adjust them back down a notch so you are comfortable. Pumping should not be painful. 
  12. Some women have good results ramping up the vacuum slowly every 3-10 minutes during pumping sessions 
  13. The S2 has a nightlight you can use if you are pumping in the dark!
  14. You can switch between single and double pumping. If you plan to pump both sides, double pump. Switch to single pumping if you’d like to nurse while pumping the other side or while clearing a clogged duct. (more tips on single vs double pumping here)
  15. If you pump two sides, invest in a hands-free pumping bra so you can do something fun while pumping (available on Amazon)
    1. Related post: Need something fun to do? Check out my list of fun and relaxing activities you can do while pumping.
    2. Related post: Or Click here for my roundup of hilarious breastfeeding jokes and memes!
  16. Using the right size flanges while pumping will make your breasts less sore and help you produce more milk
    1. Spectra flanges available on Amazon: 20, 24, 28, and 32 mm flanges.
    2. Third-party seller Maymom available on Amazon: 15, and 17, and 19, 21, 25, 25, 27, 28, 30, 32mm flanges.
    3. Third-party seller Nenesupply available on Amazon: 19, 21, 24, 27, and 30mm flanges.
    4. More about choosing proper flanges and determining your size here
  17. Try softer silicone flanges for a more comfortable fit and less chafing
  18. Put lanolin or other nipple cream on the edges of flanges and on your nipples before pumping to make pumping more comfortable
  19. Stock up on spare parts just in case – extra flanges, duckbill valves, and membranes – just in case something gets lost or wears out unexpectedly
    1. From Spectra: accessory kit (includes one of each: tubing, flange, backflow protector, duckbill valve, and bottle)
    2. Maymom: accessory kit (includes tubing, flanges, backflow protectors, bottles, and duckbill valves)
    3. From Nenesupply: accessory kit (includes tubing, flanges, backflow protectors, bottles, and duckbill valves)
    4. Read more about spare parts and accessories here
  20. Or purchase a manual pump as a backup
  21. Replace the valves and membranes every 3-6 months to ensure good suction and efficient pumping
  22. Pump at the same times every day if possible as routine encourages your breasts to produce the same amount of milk (related: mymomsanerd‘s recommended pumping schedules for working moms)
  23. If you need to boost supply, keep pumping after milk stops coming out to ensure your breasts are fully empty.
  24. The Spectra S2 has a little “cup holder” on the back. You can fit the backflow adapters or a bottle into it.
  25. Look at pictures or videos of your baby while you pump. This will help you express more. Some moms also bring a piece of their baby’s clothing with their smell on it.
  26. Find something enjoyable to do while you pump. The more relaxed and comfortable you are, the more milk you will get! Some moms have a game they play or a book they read, but only while pumping. I like putting my pump on a laptop desk  or portable table while I’m at work or at home. I can keep my pump up off the floor, so I can easily adjust the settings. And I still have room for my laptop or a notebook so I can work or play while pumping. 
  27. Some moms eat galactogogues, which are foods, drinks, or supplements that may increase milk production. These include fenugreek supplements, mother’s milk tea, rolled oats, brewer’s yeast, whole almonds, and coconut milk. Or, you can bake or buy lactation cookies that contain some of those foods. 
  28. Massage your breasts to help express all the milk. Check out this helpful guide for detailed instructions. 
  29. Drink more fluids. Try to drink an 8 ounce glass of water before pumping and another glass while you pump. I love having this water bottle from Amazon around to make sure I always have plenty to drink.
  30. Don’t look at how much milk you’ve pumped while you pump. Cover up your bottles with socks or drape a scarf or something over them
  31. Put your pump on a soft surface to make it quieter, like a couch, carpeted floor, ottoman, or even just put a towel or blanket underneath. 
  32. Personally, I have a manual pump as a backup as well. Just in case the power goes out, or I’m traveling with no place to plug my pump in. I love this Lansinoh manual pump. It’s quiet, comfortable, and even has a letdown and expression mode.
  33. I use disposable nursing pads to protect against any leaks. I’d hate to have milk leaking through my shirt at work if I’m a little late for a pumping session! If you prefer reusable, washable nursing pads, I recommend these ones by Bamboobies from Amazon.
  34. I use the rule of four for remembering how long breast milk can be stored: 4 hours at room temperature, 4 days in the fridge, and 4 months in the freezer. The CDC’s guidelines are more specific, but these are a good rule of thumb!
    1. More milk storage suggestions here
  35. Add a breast pump or accessories to your baby registry! Even if you aren’t having a shower, Amazon gives you a discount on unpurchased baby-related items on your registry around 6 weeks before your due date! Click here to get started setting up a registry on Amazon!

Insurance

Under the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare), your health insurance company must provide breast pumps for new moms at no charge. Check with your insurance provider to see what options are available. While I was pregnant, I was able to order my Spectra S2 breast pump online. My insurer checked with my OB-GYN, who confirmed I was pregnant, and it arrived in the mail a week later. Super simple! 

However, you may be in a different situation. Perhaps you don’t have insurance. Or your insurance only covers a new breast pump every 3 years, and you want a new one (the ACA doesn’t say how often insurance needs to provide a new pump!). Or maybe your current pump just isn’t cutting it. You may be able to use money from your HSA (health savings account) or FSA (flexible spending account) on a pump- again, check with your insurer. You can now even buy HSA and FSA items on Amazon! 

Spectra S2 Tips: Transporting your Breast Pump

Some versions of the S2 come with a tote and bottle cooler

While the Spectra S2 isn’t as small and portable as a pump like the Medela Pump in Style Advanced (PISA), one of the advantages is that you can fit lots of other stuff, like snacks or a water bottle  in the travel bag. I can even fit my laptop for work in the bag with my pump! I love this bag from Amazon for my S2. And when I don’t need to take my pump somewhere, I can use it as a travel bag or diaper bag!

Click the image to see more details on Amazon

Spectra Pumping Tips for Travel

Some moms don’t have the convenience of plugging their breast pumps into a wall outlet all the time. Some versions of the Spectra S2 come with a battery pack and a car adapter, but some do not. I’ve used the Spectra’s car adapter and the battery pack while traveling. Both work great! If you need a car adapter for your S2, I recommend this car adapter from Amazon. As for a portable battery, this portable battery from Amazon has great ratings. It is a little expensive, but if your insurance doesn’t cover the Spectra S1 (the S1 is rechargeable!), then it may be worth spending a little more on making your pump do what you want.

If you are planning to fly with your breast pump, most airlines consider a breast pump a medical device and do not count it as part of your carryon baggage allowance. Call your airline before traveling to confirm.

Spectra S2 Hacks for Noise Reduction 

The Spectra S2 is one of the quietest breast pumps on the market. Spectra’s website explains that their founder insisted on the quietest motor available while it was being designed (source). However, putting your pump on a soft surface, like a couch, ottoman, carpet, or even a blanket or towel helps muffle the sound to make it even quieter.

Time saving Hacks: How to Wash and Sterilize Parts for the Spectra S2

Getting your Spectra S2 ready to use is very simple: wash, sterilize, and dry the parts, then put them together. Just be aware there are a lot of parts to wash! 

The S2 breast pump comes with a bag, power adapter, four 5 ounce bottles, 2 backflow protectors (two sets of: two clear hard plastic pieces and one white silicone membrane), two duckbill valves (triangular white silicone parts that create the vacuum seal), 2 tubes, two 24mm flanges (the “shields” that go onto your breasts), two 28mm flanges, and a cooler. 

You will need to wash the bottles, all the pieces of the backflow protectors, the valves, and the flanges. You may want to wash both sets of flanges to determine which one fits you better. Do not wash the tubing. I hope this Spectra S2 tip helps you- I have many mom friends who used to spend time washing tubing that they didn’t need to! Spectra recommends:

For the accessories (which are clear or pink) — breast shield/flange, upper and lower case of backflow protector, bottle, bottle ring, bottle cover, and disk: (your model may or may not have all of these accessories) 
Use a pot large enough to fit all your parts—if the pot is too small, parts discoloration and/or distortion may occur.

Fill with water so that when your parts are added the water is at least 4” above the parts.

Place lid on the top and bring to boil.

Once the water reaches boiling point, turn off the heat and place accessories in boiling water—the water will continue to boil.

Remove accessories after 3-5 minutes.

Silicone Accessories–duckbill valves, backflow protector membranes, and bottle nipples: Run them through the boiling water for less than 2 minutes.

Source

If you prefer, you can sterilize your parts in the microwave or dishwasher.  

Microwaving your parts can result in distortion and/or discoloration of the parts. Discoloration is cosmetic and does not affect the chemical composition of the parts.

If using a dishwasher, place items on wash cycle on the top rack and air dry. Do not use heat dry.

Microwave bags can be used if the proper amount of water is added. Follow the instructions of the bag manufacturer.

No matter how you wash your parts, you will need to dry them. I like to set my pump parts and bottles up to dry on this cute drying rack that looks like fake grass, (click to view on Amazon).

spectra s2 tip -get a drying rack for all the pump parts and accessories!
Look how much stuff you can cram onto one of these drying racks!  And yes, I am very good at Tetris… why do you ask?

Spectra S2 Pumping Tips for Settings and Modes

The purpose of a breast pump is so mom can remove milk when her baby isn’t around. So a pump tries to mimic a baby nursing. At first, a baby sucks quickly until the milk starts flowing, or lets down. Then, the milk comes out steadily for awhile and the baby sucks more slowly. Eventually, the milk will slow down, and the baby sucks quickly again to stimulate another letdown. Every woman is different. Some women have a quick letdown every few minutes. Other women’s bodies take longer to get the milk flowing. 

Spectra S2 Cheat Sheet

I put together this basic Spectra S2 Cheat Sheet to show you what all the different buttons do!

spectra s2 tips and controls cheat sheet
Handy guide for how to use your Spectra S2

So what does this have to do with breast pumps? Well, the S2 has a letdown mode and normal mode. And it has controls for vacuum pressure and speed. By adjusting these settings, moms can set the pump up in a way that works best for their bodies. One of the advantages of the S2 is that it gives mom more control over how she pumps. So these Spectra S2 tips talk about the best way to get your milk out efficiently and effectively!

The Spectra starts in regular mode, requiring mom to press the letdown mode button (the wavy lines just above the power button) at the start and then press it again to turn off letdown mode. As a new mom with little sleep, that was way too complicated for my tired brain. In fact, many moms who are new to the Spectra don’t realize this and actually use the settings backwards and assume it starts in letdown mode and accidentally turn letdown mode on when they should be in regular mode! Look for the squiggly lines on the screen to check that you are in letdown mode!

I can personally attest to the fact that I’ve accidentally left the Spectra in letdown mode for several minutes and forgotten to switch to regular! 

With the Spectra, you can adjust the vacuum pressure and the vacuum speed. Why is this important? Well, to mimic the baby, during letdown mode, you want the vacuum sucking quickly. And in normal mode you want it sucking slowly. The S2 lets you change these settings to whatever you want.  The Spectra S2 settings are saved from session to session, so you don’t have to remember what worked well last time.

As for the specifics of the Spectra S2 settings, Spectra’s website explains:

spectra s2 tip - use the letdown mode - the squiggly lines - at the beginning of a pump session before milk starts coming out. turn it off once milk starts flowing.
The letdown button is in the middle of the top row, it looks like 3 squiggly lines. Spectra bacon mode!

Massage mode (or letdown mode) can be set to 70 cycles per minute, with a vacuum strength from 1-5

Expression mode can be set to 38-54 cycles per minute, with a vacuum strength from 1-12

Source

Spectra S2 Tips for Single vs Double Pumping

Before I’d ever used a pump, I figured I’d always use the double pumping option, but in reality, I often pump one side while I nurse my baby on the other side in the morning, and then pump both sides while I’m at work. Women with clogged ducts may only want to pump one side. Or maybe your baby fell asleep after nursing on one side and you want to pump the other side. There are many reasons you may want to switch from single pumping to double pumping
(related post: Everything you need to know about baby behaviors while breastfeeding!)

spectra s2 tip - you can single or double pump by opening or closing off the outlets

In theory, this should be easy. You just have to plug one of the outlets from the vacuum pump…

Let me tell you, the S2 is a real chore to switch back and forth from single to double pumping. The S2 has a rubbery plastic cap that you can put over a vacuum outlet if you don’t need it, so you can pump one side. But the cap is really small, and the area is recessed. So it can be really tough to get your fingers in there to remove the cap or replace it. Tweezers may help to remove it more easily.

If you are frequently double pumping, I recommend using a hands-free Spectra pumping bra. This is one of my favorite Spectra S2 tips. I use the Simple Wishes bra that I bought from Amazon. It frees up my hands, so I can work, massage to release more milk, or relax and read! It comes in two sizes which are labeled in a confusing way. Both sizes have an adjustable back so you can make the bra any size you want. The “x-small/large” size fits most women. However, the “large/plus” size has an insert that goes between your breasts to make the bra fit better over the front of your breasts, in case you have a wide chest. It is compatible with the S2 and many other breast pumps. Freeing up my hands was liberating and really helped me enjoy pumping somewhat!

Click the image to see more details on Amazon

Some women cut holes in a regular bra to make a nursing bra. Personally, I really like my regular bras and wouldn’t want to cut holes in them. And I don’t think they would hold the bottles as well for me as a dedicated pumping bra does.

Make pumping more efficient by using the correct size breast flanges 

This is one of the simplest, yet most overlooked Spectra S2 tip! The breast flange or shield is the “horn” that fits onto your breast. The S2 includes two 24 mm and two 28 mm breast flanges. I highly recommend determining what size you’ll need after giving birth. Your breast size and nipple size can change. It may even change again over the ten weeks or so that it takes your milk supply to become consistent!

The nurses or lactation consultants can help you determine while you are still at the hospital after your baby is born. Or, check out the handy guide from Spectra’s website here showing how to measure them yourself. Having the optimal size for your body optimizes your milk production. You can cause yourself pain if you are using flanges that are too big or too small. I also recommend getting an extra set of the size that you like so that you have more flexibility and aren’t always washing.

Basically, take your nipple size in mm and add 3-4mm to determine your flange size.

Common sizes:

  • up to 16mm = 20mm flange
  • 17-20mm = 24mm flange
  • 21-24mm = 28mm flange
  • 25-28mm = 32mm flange

Once you’ve determined the correct flange size, you can purchase the different options on Amazon.

Did you know there are also softer flanges? If the hard plastic flanges are too rough on your skin, try these soft silicone flanges for Spectra S2 (click to view details on Amazon). The Spectra cushion comes in a single pack and is inserted inside the S2 flange. I wish I had known about these when I first started pumping as my breasts were very sensitive.

Spectra S2 Tips: Stock up on spare accessories for emergencies

Spare parts and extra bottles are available on Amazon! Personally, I bought an extra set right away in case something broke, or if I didn’t have a chance to wash my one and only set, I had clean parts ready to go.
This hack really came in handy at work. I forgot my flanges one day, but I had an extra set at work and didn’t have to manually express, or rush home to get them!

Spectra S2 spare parts: Replace them every 3-6 months!

Spectra recommends replacing the tubing, valves, and membranes every 3-6 months in order to keep your pump working at its best. In fact, I noticed I was pumping less milk after using my pump for around 4 months. I replaced the backflow protectors and the duckbill valves and noticed an immediate improvement!

S2 Hack: Bottles from other manufacturers are better!

For the S2, I actually prefer the bottles made by Nene Supply. You can clearly read the labels and even after using them for about 9 months now, the labels haven’t worn off. The Spectra bottles, on the other hand, are much harder to read.

I also really like the Maymom duckbill valves. They are usually lower cost than Spectra’s. 

spectra s2 tip - check out extra bottles, flanges, valves, membranes, etc from other suppliers, you may find a good deal!
S2 bottle on the left. Nene Supply bottle on the right

The flanges and valves from Nene Supply are a little different than the Spectra versions but they work just fine. The threaded part of the flanges from Nene are a little bit shorter than Spectra’s. 

Left: Spectra S2 flange and duckbill valve. Right: Nene Supply flange and duckbill valve

And the Nene valves are different. Instead of a big piece that fits over the bottom of the flange, they have a small indentation that has to fit over the bottom of the flange.However, I find they work just fine even though they are a little different! They are all completely interchangeable. 

spectra s2 tip - other suppliers flanges and valves may look different but are totally compatible with parts made by spectra
Spectra: Left. Nene: Right

While pumping at work or while traveling, moms have a couple options for cleaning or reusing pump parts. Experts recommend pumping at least every three hours while away from the baby. I have a 30 minute drive to work, 8 hours of work, a 1 hour lunch break, then a 30 minute drive home, for a total of 10 hours away from my baby.  So this means I pump 3 times at work. So how do traveling or working moms make sure they have enough pieces and parts to pump at work? There are several options. 

  • Wash them in the sink with soap and water after each use. This is the best thing to do, but not everyone has access to a sink at work, or may not have time to wash the parts at work. 
  • Have several sets of parts, one set for each pumping session. It does mean washing 3 or more sets of breast shields and flanges once you get home. 
  • Store the breast shields and flanges in a sealable bag (available on Amazon) in a fridge or cooler between pumping sessions. All moms may not have access to a fridge at work. 
  • Use breast pump wipes (click to view on Amazon) to disinfect the parts that are exposed to milk. I’ve used these several times while traveling and they are very convenient! 
Click the image to see more details on Amazon

Related: Not sure which pump to buy? Check out my post comparing the Spectra S2 vs Medela PISA

Milk Storage Tips

If you are pumping milk, you will need a place to store it. Again, you have lots of options! Also consider checking your daycare provider’s preference, they may want the milk delivered in a specific way.

  • Pump and store in whatever bottles fit onto your pump. This is what I do, just put a lid on the bottles after pumping and I’m good to go!
  • Pump directly into the bottles your baby will drink from. However, the bottle your baby prefers may not be one that fits onto your breast pump. 
  • Pump directly into storage bags. I tend to do this while traveling as the bags take up much less room than bottles. Some moms also like pumping into bags since they won’t have to wash as many bottles. This adaptor accessory from Amazon lets you pump directly with your S2 into bags. 
Click the image to see more details on Amazon

  • If I have extra milk left over, I also pour it into storage bags and freeze it. I like these breastmilk storage bags by Lansinoh (click to view on Amazon). I use two of these plastic boxes to organize the milk in my freezer, and one in my cupboard to store extra bottles and pump parts. They are the perfect size to stand the bags up on their sides! I also have several in my nursery to organize my baby’s pacifiers, socks, and other small stuff!
Milk stored in plastic boxes in the freezer

Conclusions: Spectra S2 Tips

The Spectra S2 gives mom amazing options for customizing her pumping sessions and is amazingly quiet. Try out some of the Spectra S2 tips above to customize your pumping sessions and make them more comfortable and enjoyable. Personally, I don’t mind pumping. It’s a great time to sit quietly and take a break from work, and I know I’m providing my baby with the nutrition that she needs! 

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