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Health Matters: A New Mom's Guide to Used Breast Pumps

Updated on August 7, 2011
A used breast pump displayed for sale at a local baby consignment shop.
A used breast pump displayed for sale at a local baby consignment shop.
Another used pump- this one sealed shut with tape.
Another used pump- this one sealed shut with tape.
Yet another used pump.
Yet another used pump.

It's This Simple: Don't Buy One

I want my baby to have breast milk, but pumps are so expensive and my insurance doesn't cover the cost; I can just buy a used one and clean it, right?


Buying a used breast pump is putting your baby in danger. You could inadvertenly expose your child to contagious viruses by using someone else's breast pump. Breast milk is not sterile; if a mother has a communicable disease such as hepatitis, HIV- Human Immunodeficiency Virus (AIDS), HTLV-1- Human T-Cell Leukemia Virus Type I, CMV - Cytomegalovirus, it is excreted in breast milk.

There are two kinds of pumps: personal use and hospital grade.

Personal use pumps are just like any other personal hygiene item- toothbrushes, personal massagers, condoms, diapers- once opened, they cannot be returned to the store. Personal pumps are "open motor systems," which means the shield that fits your breast is attached to tubing that connects to an internal diaphram in the motor. This means that your milk is in constant contact with every piece of your pump; there is absolutely no way to sterilize the motor of your breast pump. Ergo- the FDA has filed them under "single user items."

Why can you rent pumps, then?

Hospital grade pumps are manufactured differently; they are referred to as "closed motor systems." While the breast shields and tubing do come in contact with your milk, they are not directly connected to the motor and prevent cross contamination of mother to mother milk. Hospital grade pumps are approved by the FDA for multiple users.

According to Breast Pumps Direct, "It is important to mention that some personal use pumps have also been FDA approved as safe for multiple users. Both the Bailey Medical Nurture III and the Hygeia EnJoye electric pumps are safe for multiple users as long as each mother has her own pumping kit, which includes breast shields, tubing, collection bottles and valves."

However, I was appalled during a recent thrift store visit to find personal use pumps the FDA defines as "single user" on the shelf, for sale, used, by complete strangers with absolutely no warnings to the consumer. Even worse, the employee's reply to my verbal warning of cross contamination and the potential harm of exposing babies to deadly viruses, "Well, if we see milk on the tubes, we wipe it off." *Shudders.*

The lack of knowledge, consumer care, customer service, and hygiene are dangerous, so buyer and baby- BEWARE.

If you absolutely cannot afford to spend a single penny on a breastpump, your insurance will not cover a rental fee, and you want your baby to have breastmilk, you are a perfect candidate for WIC (Women, Infant, Children). The pump is free, but often, they do ask a minimal deposit that will be returned to you after you no longer require the use of the pump. Contact your local WIC office or La Leche League for aid.


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