Looking at used breast pumps? Are you wondering if they are safe?
We get questions from time to time complaining that we mention on the site that several of us have allowed others to use our breast pumps. Well…some breast pumps are designed so they can be used by multiple women, while others are not.
Are Used Breast Pumps Safe to Use?
Many expecting and new mothers assume that their only options are to buy a new breast pump or rent one. Then they realize that there’s a third option: buy a used breast pump. That may sound like a great idea if you’re low on extra cash, and who isn’t when you have car seats, strollers, onesies and doctor copays to cover?
A basic breast pump can run $300 or more, and a hospital-grade pump will likely cost you $1,000 if not more. Those prices may make used pumps look very attractive, especially if you know someone trustworthy who is offering one for sale at a great price.
Common Questions About Used Breast Pumps Answered:
The question is whether used breast pumps are safe for you and your baby. You may also worry about parts wearing out and the risk of other breakdowns that could leave you with no pump at the worst time. We’re providing the answers to all of your most frequently asked questions right here because we want you to make the smartest buying decision possible.
1. Are used breast pumps safe to use?
Are used breast pumps sanitary? That’s one of the most common questions asked by new or expecting mothers planning to rent a breast pump or buy a used breast pump. You may also have a well-meaning friend or relative who offers to give or loan you a pump that they’re no longer using. The answer to the question is yes and no, depending on what type of breast pump you’re considering.
The good news is that most used rental breast pumps are safe and sanitary for you and your baby. Rental pumps are typically closed systems, which means all parts that make contact with breast milk are easily replaced. That replacement will occur before your rental pump is delivered to you, so you don’t have to worry about making contact with milk or residue left by the previous renter.
The bad news is many secondhand breast pumps aren’t safe because they aren’t closed systems. They feature parts that remain permanently in place for the life of the pump, so there’s no way for you to ensure your milk isn’t contaminated with remnants of milk from the previous owner. Even if you know and trust the previous owner, you don’t want your breast milk to mix with even the smallest speck of old milk from another mother. (FDA, 2018)
If you still want to buy a used breast pump, make sure the pump has a closed system or replaceable parts. When considering whether a used pump is affordable, consider the cost of the unit plus all needed replacement parts. You may find that a new pump won’t cost much more, especially if you can find a good one on sale online.
2. Can a breast pump be used by more than one person?
Should you share a breast pump with another mother? If you live in the same household with another new mother, that may seem like a logical solution, but there are some concerns to think about:
- Time Conflicts – What happens when you both need the breast pump at the same time? You may coordinate schedules that allow you to use the pump at different times, but new babies don’t always make it easy to follow a set schedule. You never know when your breasts may become engorged or your baby may switch feeding schedules unexpectedly. Sharing a pump can become a hassle that makes caring for a baby even more stressful.
- Sanitation – Just as we discussed above about purchasing, renting or borrowing used breast pumps, it’s only safe to share a breast pump if you have a pump with a closed system. Each person using the pump will need to have their own parts, and you will need to change the parts out each time a new person uses the pump. That’s a time-consuming process.
- Longevity – The more a breast pump is used, the shorter its lifespan may become. If you want to share a pump to save money, consider the possibility that the heavy workload will lead to more wear and tear which requires you to replace the pump sooner than expected. You can reduce the risk by investing in a durable hospital-grade breast pump that is designed for frequent use.
- Warranty – Buying a used breast pump or sharing certain breast pumps may be a violation of the manufacturer’s warranty and you may not be able to get help from the manufacturer if you have a problem with the pump.
3. What parts should be replaced on a used or shared breast pump?
We’ve talked a lot about replacing or switching out parts to make sharing a breast pump or buying a used breast pump safe. If you choose this route, make sure the following parts are replaced on your pump before use:
- Breast Shields – These are the cone-like plastic parts that attach the pump to the breasts. They make direct contact with the breasts and breast milk. They often have tiny grooves that are near impossible to keep impeccably clean, so replacement is required between users.
- Valves and Tubes – The valves and tubes transport breast milk from your breasts to your baby. Not only are they incredibly hard to clean, but they start to wear out over time. If you don’t know how long the valves and tubes on a pump have been in use, you will need to replace them even if you don’t think about it from a safety perspective. You want to make sure they work as efficiently as possible.
- Backflow Protectors – This is the part that prevents breast milk from flowing backwards through the tubes. They may come in contact with breast milk and can wear down over time just like the tubes and valves.
4. How often do breast pump parts need to be replaced?
Even if you buy a new breast pump, some parts need replaced on a routine basis to ensure your unit functions at top performance over time. You will know that you need to replace parts when your pump stops working as well as it did when first purchased. That leads to an inconvenience as you search for new parts, so it’s better to maintain your machine by replacing the following parts at the noted frequencies:
- Valve Membranes – At least every two to three months. Some pumps work best when the membranes are replaced at least once a month.
- Duck Valves – At least every three to four months. Your pump may require monthly replacement if you share your pump or pump exclusively.
- Backflow Protector Diaphragms – At least every six months.
- Tubing – As needed. More frequent use by multiple users will make this a more routine requirement.
- Breast Shields – About every six months.
Keep in mind that replacement requirements can vary by pump make and model. If you buy a used pump or borrow someone else’s pump, try to look the user’s guide up online through the manufacturer’s website.
5. Do pawn shops take breast pumps?
The answer here is maybe because it depends on policies at each pawn shop. Many pawn shops have no awareness of sanitary guidelines for breast pumps, so they simply won’t buy or sell them used. They’re likely concerned about liability if a baby or mother were somehow harmed due to contamination from a used pump that wasn’t properly sterilized between users.
When you do find a pawn shop selling used breast pumps, don’t assume that it’s a closed system pump or that the parts have been properly replaced. Only buy the pump if you can verify it has a closed system, and then you should replace each part that may have come in contact with the previous user’s skin or breast milk.
It’s best to stick with hospital-grade breast pumps when purchasing secondhand from a pawn shop. You have no way of knowing how many users the pump has had, how long it’s been in use, or how long it’s been sitting at the pawn shop out of use. You could end up with a pump that doesn’t work well for long because it’s simply too old.
6. Can you donate used breast pumps?
Breast pumps are an expensive purchase that not all new mothers can afford. That’s why many organizations accepting donations will take them, but you may need to meet some qualifications first. For instance, some organizations may only accept donations that have closed systems or that have replaceable parts.
Other organizations may take whatever they can get and then do their best to sterilize the pump parts afterwards. That’s likely due to limited availability of pumps and a higher demand from mothers. If you’re one of those mothers looking for a donated pump, make sure it does meet all of the requirements listed throughout this page, including a closed system or replaceable parts. You should also make sure you can find and afford the replacement parts.
If you just don’t know what to do with your used breast pump, see if the manufacturer has a recycling program. The Medela Recycles program is an example of a program that makes it easy to dispose of a pump without negatively impacting anyone else or the environment.
Is there a Safe And Budget-Friendly Alternative to Used Breast Pumps?
If you live in the United States, the Affordable Care Act requires most insurance plans to cover the cost of certain breast pumps so you may be able to get one for free. Learn more about that option here…