Used Breast Pumps
FDA Guidelines vs Real Life
Used breast pumps, are they safe to use? We do get asked a lot about buying a used breast pump or using a breast pump from a previous pregnancy. So, let’s take a look at the pros and cons, as well as the guidelines, so that you can figure out what is going to work best for you.
If you’re new here, we are New Little Life. Our founder, Allison Tolman is a lactation consultant and a breast pump expert. We talk about breast pumps a lot! And, we also talk about how to combine pumping with breastfeeding. We even work with moms individually! Specifically, moms who are going back to work and combining breastfeeding and pumping. So, if that’s you, book a discovery call, here, to see if the Pumping for Working Moms Program is right for you!
(This post was originally a video. Check it out below!)
Does the FDA Recommend Using a Used Breast Pump?
Let’s just jump right into used breast pumps. First, let’s start out with the obvious. The FDA does not recommend using a used breast pump.
However, it’s our responsibility to share some ideas for you to help you see that using a used breast pump isn’t just a hard no. This post will get a bigger picture of why used breast pumps might be fine to use, or why they might not be.
Also, this post will talk about whether or not you can resue your own personal pumps from a previous pregnancy.
Single-Use Pumps vs Multi-User Pumps
First, let’s start by defining single-use pumps and multi-user pumps. So, there are some multi-user pumps out there that can actually be used by multiple people. These aren’t the ones that you usually see in Buy Sell Trade pages because they’re usually really big, really heavy and really bulky.
True multi-user pumps cost thousands of dollars! The Medela Symphony is a multi-user one. It is actually cleared by the FDA to be fine for multi-users. So, if you’re renting it, or using it at the hospital, these multi-user pumps are actually designed for that. You have to get your own flange kit, tubing and everything. But, they do have an extra barrier between the flange kit and the pump motor itself. This is not the same thing as being a closed system pump.
Closed System Pumps
A closed system pump is a pump that has a barrier in the flange setup, like a backflow protector. The Spectra setup is a really common example of a backflow protector.
With a backflow protector, there is a barrier between where the milk is and the tubing that goes to the pump. A closed system pump that doesn’t mean that it’s multi-user, okay? Multi-user pump is actually a clearance from the FDA and there is some extra stuff in there that makes it a multi-user pump.
Hospital Grade Pumps
The term hospital grade also does not mean multi-user. This term is not regulated AT ALL by the FDA. There’s a whole other video talking about hospital grade what that means and what it doesn’t mean. Again, hospital grade pumps are not the same thing as a multi-user pump.
A Note for IBCLCs and Lactation Professionals about Renting Pumps
Single user pumps and multi-user pumps are different. Know that if you are a lactation professional who is renting out a single user pump. Just because it has that closed system flange kit, doesn’t mean it’s a multi-user pump. It is not appropriate for professionals and you should stop doing that!
Actually, New Little Life has an extensive set of courses for lactation professionals specifically around pumping to learn info like this. You can join the waitlist for that course, here.
If you have the option of renting a single user pump from a professional or a company you should probably not do that, okay? They’re not following FDA and best practice guidelines.
Expectations vs Reality
But, for the users you have a lot more freedom here. This is your experience, your life. If you’re comfortable with some of the risks of buying a used pump and the pros outweigh those cons for you, then we’re not going to tell you what to do. “
Pros of Used Breast Pumps
But, let’s talk about the pros and cons of used breast pumps. The first, and honestly really only pro of this scenario, is that breast pumps are expensive. Maybe you bought an expensive pump and it didn’t work for you so now if you want a new one you’ll have to pay out of pocket. Or you just want another pump. Whatever the reason, pumps are expensive. Sometimes people will borrow or buy used especially if you know the person like it’s family or a friend’s.
We’re not going to deny that buying used is cheaper. If only there was a way that you could try and test pumps before you buy them!
Cons of Used Breast Pumps
Next, let’s talk about some of the cons and risk factors associated with used breast pumps.
First, the most obvious con is sanitation. You might actually be comfortable with this risk, especially if you know the person or you’re getting it from someone that you trust how long they used it for.
But, the FDA says consumers should be aware of the hazards of renting or sharing a breast pump that is not designed for multi-users, even with family and friends. Contaminated breast pumps can cause you and your baby to develop an infection, and we know that these risks may seem low, but it isn’t the safest option.
Even if a used device looks really clean, infectious particles may potentially survive in the breast pump and/or its accessories for a surprisingly long time. The point of this post is to share the facts with you so that you’re aware. If you choose to ignore this con, that’s up to you.
Second, sharing a breast pump violates the manufacturer’s warranty (if it’s not a multi-user pump.) A voided warranty means that you might not be able to get help from the manufacturer if you have a problem with the pump. So, again, maybe not a huge deal because you’re getting it probably at a discounted price anyway, but something to keep in mind.
Risk of the Unknown
Third, and probably the biggest con, is the unknown factor. You don’t know what condition it’s in. If your milk supply is not what you expected it to be a little piece in the back of your mind is going to wonder if it’s actually the pump. When your pump is malfunctioning, you won’t know if it was heavily used or if it wasn’t used appropriately by the previous person, etc.
Parts hacking affects the motor life of your breast pump. For example, when you’re using parts that didn’t come with the pump, even as simple as using like a Pumpin’ Pals silicone flange insert, or wearable cups, it can affect the motor. Parts hacking things are really common practice nowadays, and they’re not bad at all! But that is going to affect the motor because they’re not designed to be used with any other parts aside from what they came with. We don’t really know how much it’s going to affect that, but it will to some extent.
What about Used Pumps from a Previous Pregnancy?
Using a pump from your previous pregnancy is the pretty much the same thing as using a used breast pump. Maybe you’ve noticed that your milk supply it’s not what you expected. Going through all the variables, it might actually be the pump that’s malfunctioning. So, to eliminate that factor, you should just get a new pump.
Now, here’s the thing with previously used pumps from yourself. They are usually fine to use again. You don’t have to worry as much about the sanitation factor because it’s in your home, it’s your stuff, etc. Sometimes the longer that the pump is just alive in the world, you might have a risk of bacteria forming somewhere deep inside but it’s not super common. So, unless your pump was used really heavily by you in your previous pregnancy, it’s actually probably fine to use again.
Get a New Pump for Every Pregnancy
Don’t forget though, you will have that unknown factor that we talked about, that extra variable of uncertainty. So, we usually recommend getting a new pump with every pregnancy. Maybe you try a different style of pump if you want. Maybe you’ve got that good, old reliable tabletop pump and you want to try a wearable one this time. But, it can be nice to have a newer pump to compare with the older pump if that ever does become a question.
If you use your old pump from a previous pregnancy, you will need to replace all of the parts aside from the pump. So, the tubing, the flanges, the valves, the backflow protectors, anything else that attaches to the pump, that will all need to be replaced. Stuff just wears out.
Here is a link to the New Little Life Amazon storefront. It has lots of links to common pumps and their replacement parts.
Charge Your Smart Pumps Even When You’re Not Using it Regularly
One other note about pumps from a previous pregnancy. If you have a smart pump, meaning that it can connect to an app, you do need to charge it and turn it on periodically. We would recommend every few weeks. So, if you just finished up pumping with your smart pump and you know you’re going to be having another baby soonish, you know for the next year you might want to turn that thing on every few weeks. Make sure that it’s updated. Those little batteries just do not last well.
So if you have a smart pump that just won’t turn on, it’s probably not broken. It just needs to be charged. Once it’s charged, make sure that it still works, if you’re planning to use it again!
How to Check Hours Used On a Spectra
The Spectra pump is actually the only pump that we know of that you can check the hours used. To do this involves a crazy little crisscross system shown below in this graphic:
One of the Spectra pumps we checked for this video was used for 29 hours which is a lot! So, then that begs the question would we go sell this pump that has 29 hours that’s like nothing? It’s a hard question, right? The Spectra is a 200 hour pump, and if it’s just sitting there doing nothing, you might consider selling it. At the end of the day, it’s just gonna be what you’re comfortable with.
Pumping for Working Moms Program
Pumps are so expensive and we wish that there was a better way to help you decide which pumps to get before you spend money on one. Actually, this is something Allison does help moms with in the Pumping for Working Moms Program. It’s really hard on YouTube to say this is the best pump or this one’s going to work for the most people. Once Allison gets to know you in her program, and understands your scenario and what needs you have, what your baby does and what things you like on other pumps, it can be pretty easy for her to narrow down some of the options that can work for you. Allison’s recommendations are never a guarantee, but if you’re interested not only in choosing a pump but in all aspects of pumping you can come join us inside our Pumping for Working Moms Program.
As with most things, using a used breast pump isn’t a black and white decision. We hope this post was helpful to you in your decision!