You found the hidden text! Did you know... One single drop of a mother's colostrum has nearly 1 million white blood cells in it! True amazing power we hold as human mothers to heal. "Every Drop Counts!" - Summer

Many of us Lactation Consultants get emails, calls and questions about this very topic. Many well meaning people out there are offering used breastpumps to mothers, or selling them to mothers. You may be using one yourself.

Please read on, so you may get the REAL information about this very thing.  I want to clear up a lot of confusion out there about “used” breastpumps, so that you may understand, and can pass it along to your friends, family and colleagues. And so that you may enlighten them, and together we can help moms make informed and educated decisions.

So the big debate, can you use a “used” breastpump. First to clarify, there are two kinds of breastpumps out there. There are closed motor pumps, meant for multiple users, and then there are open motor pumps, meant for personal use, or single users.

Closed motor pumps are the type used in the hospital, and also available for rent by month, like Medela Symphony or Medela Lactina These have a motor life that lasts a very, very long time, decades in fact, and cost in the $1000s of dollars. A closed motor means there is absolutely no way that transfer of a live fluid (human milk) could enter the motor and transfer to another mother (user). This is because of the way the motor and system are configured, provided one always uses new, sterile tubing and kit with each user. This is ONLY the case with closed motor pumps, like the ones listed above.

Open motor pumps are personal use pumps, like the the Medela Pump N Style, or Medela Freestyle, Medela Swing, Avent Isis, Ameda Purely Yours and so forth, ones that you can buy in the store. An open motor pump means that live fluid can enter the motor, even with changing of tubing and kit.  Milk can get trapped inside the actual motor and then transfer to the new user, even with new or sterilized tubing.  Granted it is remote and more like a hypothetical risk, but it is still a risk, and not one a hospital or other authority could assume, because live fluid carries with it all bacteria, viruses and so forth. But a mother could assume this risk as her own, provided she knows the mother who is offering her pump to her, knows her health history, and has made the choice on her own to accept this risk.

Now here is the main reason to caution women against using “used” breastpumps that are personal use pumps . These personal use pumps have a limited motor life and are much more affordable for women to buy than the above mentioned multiple user pumps. The motor on personal use pumps is designed and built to last about 500 hours. 500 hours of pumping is about 1 year of pumping, three-four times per day for about 5 out of the 7 days of the week. (ie, like returning to work Monday through Friday) When that pump has neared the end of those hours, it will no longer vaccum or suction appropriately, and not express well. It will appear to be sounding like it does still work, when indeed it is ‘dead’. And a women who begins using this pump at the end of its life, will of course, think her milk supply has suddenly dried up and it is her fault, when it is actually the fault of the pump’s motor. If it is caught in time, she can work to recover her milk supply, but if not, a women may go on to completely involute (dry up), and lose her entire milk supply. These women could go on believing that they spontaneously dried up, and never think it could be the pump to blame.

Even mothers of multiple children, who have used their own pump for 500 hours, should purchase a new pump with subsequent children, so they may keep up their milk supply. Yes it is costly. Usually about $300 or more. But very cheap and reasonable when compared to the cost of formula that one would need to purchase, should this pump reach its end of life (500 hours) during your breastfeeding experience and the high cost of losing your milk supply.

So when thinking about using a  ‘used’ breastpump, be informed. If you should assume the risk of the transmission of someone else’s live fluid, that can carry viruses, diseases and such, know the history, and most importantly, in my opinion, find out how long the the prior user pumped, how often each day, for how many weeks/months and then make your informed decision.

There is also something called a pump gauge you could ask someone to test your pump. Many Lactation Consultants have them. This gauge can test a pump to see how much suction and vaccum is operating at now. It won’t tell you how much life is left, and that can happen quickly, and then losing vaccum fast. But it will tell you at that testing, what the pumping pressure and vacuum are, and combined with the knowledge of the last user’s pumping experience, can give a woman a good idea of how much life it actually left in that pump.

It is with good intention and well wishes that people do offer their own breastpumps to other women, or even sell them at a lower cost. But if we don’t know the life of the motor, is it best to just buy a new, never used breast pump, with a new 500 hour life in it, and get the volume of milk you and your baby deserve? That is for you to decide, with the knowledge you have now.

I hope  this helps many women avoid any future problems with their precious milk supply.

Every drop counts!
Summer J Mayse, IBCLC
International Board Certified Lactation Consultant