Closed system vs. open system pumps
When you are buying a pump, whether it be new or used, it is important to know whether is has an open or a closed system. A closed system pump has a barrier between the milk collection kit and the pump mechanism to prevent contamination by bacteria/mold/viruses/etc. An open system pump has no such barrier.
Note that it is NOT possible to completely sterilize the inside of an open system pump – you would have to dismantle the pump to get to all the parts that could be affected, plus some of these parts are impossible to completely sanitize. Buying new tubing, new parts, and cleaning every cleanable part does NOT sanitize the motor of the pump, which (in an open system pump) is, by definition, open to the new milk you are pumping.
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So far there have been no documented instances of a baby becoming ill due to contamination from a breastpump, but no one has studied the issue. Without any studies, it’s really hard to say what to do if you find signs of contamination in your pump – the potential for illness is there but we don’t know how likely it is.
CLOSED system pumps include:
- Ameda: Elite, Platinum, Purely Yours
- Ardo: Calypso, Carum
- Bailey: Nurture III
- Freemie: Freedom, Equality
- Hygeia: EnDeare, EnJoye
- Lansinoh: Signature Pro, Smartpump
- Lucina: Melodi One
- Medela: Lactina, Symphony
- PJ’s: Comfort, Bliss
- Rumble Tuff: Serene Express Duo
- Spectra: M1, S1, S2, Dew 350
OPEN system pumps include:
- All Medela pumps EXCEPT Lactina/Symphony/other older hospital grade pumps.
Contact your pump manufacturer if you are unsure whether your pump is open or closed system.
Keep in mind that there is a difference between a closed system pump and a multiple user pump. Many closed system pumps are not designed to be used by more than one person – in fact, most pumps purchased by mothers are intended to be single-user pumps, and the manufacturer warranties and motor life will reflect that fact.
If you are buying a used “hospital-grade” multiple user pump, make sure you check the serial number with the manufacturer before buying the pump. It’s not unusual for pumps stolen from health care facilities to show up for sale, and the manufacturers generally keep a list of serial numbers of pumps that have been reported as stolen.
Another issue, particularly important in previously-used pumps, is motor life. Check your warranty to get an idea of the expected life of your pump. Most breastpumps are designed for a year or so of typical use (15-20 pumping sessions per week). After that point the motor may not function as well, affecting the pump’s milk output (and your milk supply). If you buy a used pump, the motor may already be near the end of its expected lifetime. Many pump rental stations will have a vacuum tester and can test your pump to see if the appropriate vacuum levels are being reached.
A third issue that is important to many parents is whether the pump manufacturer is WHO-Code compliant. The WHO Code is a marketing code that aims to protect breastfeeding and prevent aggressive marketing practices that often prevent parents from meeting their own breastfeeding goals. Read more about the Code here and find Code-compliant companies here.
If you find mold growing in your pump, is it safe to use the milk you have already pumped? Unfortunately, we have no studies on the subject to guide us. It may not be a major issue if you have an older healthy baby, and the pump has only been used by you (the baby’s mother). There would be more concerns about the safety of the milk if you have a preemie, newborn, or any baby with a compromised immune system. If the pump is an open system pump that has been used by more than one mother, there may be unknown contaminants present, so it would be difficult to determine the safety of using the milk.
How can I get help with the expense of a new pump? If you are in the US, check your insurance coverage! Certain pump rentals, purchases, and lactation counseling are 100% covered by health insurance if your plan year begins 8/1/2012 or later. If not covered by your insurance, breast pumps and supplies that assist lactation are (as of 2/28/11) considered a deductible medical expense. More on legislation here.
- New Benefits for Breastfeeding Moms: Facts and Tools to Understand Your Coverage under the Health Care Law from the National Women’s Law Center
- Women’s Preventive Services: Required Health Plan Coverage Guidelines – “Non-grandfathered plans and issuers are required to provide coverage without cost sharing consistent with these guidelines in the first plan year (in the individual market, policy year) that begins on or after August 1, 2012… Breastfeeding support, supplies, and counseling…”
- Federal law now includes breast pumps and other supplies that directly assist with lactation as medical care expenses.
- TRICARE Breastfeeding Support from TRICARE (healthcare for uniformed service members in the US)
More on choosing a breastpump
Do I need a breastpump? @ KellyMom
Choosing a Breast Pump by Norma Ritter, IBCLC, RLC
Choosing a Breastpump by Robyn Roche-Paull, RN, BSN, IBCLC
Choosing a Breast Pump from the from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration
WHO-Code Compliant Pumps @ KellyMom
Pump flange fitting (podcast) Dee Kassing, IBCLC
How to Size Your Breast Pump Flange (video) by Wendy Colson, RN, IBCLC, from Hygeia Baby
Medela Breastshield Sizing Guide from Medela
More on used breastpumps
Used Breast Pumps by Cindy Curtis,RN, IBCLC, CCE, CD
Buying and Renting a Breast Pump from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration
Do you know what may be in your used pump? by Sarah Eichler, IBCLC
Why you shouldn’t buy, sell, or borrow a second hand Medela Swing pump from Dispelling Breastfeeding Myths