Used Breast Pumps

Compiled by: Cindy Curtis, RN, IBCLC of BreastfeedingOnline.Com

The concern of buying a used pump is something many breastfeeding moms encounter. Although a used pump may be more affordable than a new one, there are real health implications involved.

The practice of re-using single user pumps may be dangerous because some disease organisms are know to be present in the breast milk of infected women. Additionally, if a woman has used the breast pump during an episode of cracked bleeding nipples, blood contamination may have also occurred. Home sterilization methods are not always reliable to ensure the safe destruction of all pathogens especially in the rubber parts such as washers and diaphragms. Some pumps have internal diaphragms that cannot be removed and cleaned or replaced. In addition, even if you get a new collection kit (the part the touches your breast and collects the milk) it may be possible for air-born pathogens or droplets of milk that are not visible to the naked eye to get into a pump motor and cause contamination to the next user. Most single user pumps are “open system” pumps and do not have any protective barrier to prevent cross contamination to multiple users.

Many of the diseases that can be found in the milk of infected women are very serious or life threatening. Pathogens like Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), hepatitis, cytomegalovirus (CMV) and others can be found in the breastmilk of infected women. (Lawrence 94) These diseases frequently go undetected for long periods of time, so even if the former user of the pump is trustworthy and willing to share this personal health information with you, she may not be aware she or her partner are carriers. Though there have not been any documented cases of mothers or babies being infected through the use of a second-hand pump, I don’t believe sharing single user pumps is worth even a very small or theoretical risk.

Other very difficult to clear fungal infections like candidiasis, more commonly known as yeast or thrush, may also be transmitted. Yeast organisms are very stubborn pathogens that can live on surfaces for long periods. Some lactation consultants will go as far as recommending replacing old pump equipment when working with a mom who has an especially persistent yeast infection because of the difficult in ensuring the complete destruction of the fungus even with careful cleaning.

In addition to the health risks of borrowing a pump there are ethical ones as well. I have worked with several moms who purchased or borrowed a used pump from a friend or relative, only to have that pump break or stop operating while they were using it. These moms then felt obligated to purchase a new pump,if it was a borrowed pump, the new pump had to be returned and the mom had spent a lot of extra money that she didn’t need to. The approximate cost to formula feed a baby for one year is $2,300.00 , a new breast pump is very reasonable compared to that price.

Most breast pumps come with a one year warranty, but this only applies to the original owner, any sharing of the pump negates the warranty.

I personally called the FDA on June 1, 2001 to find out the specifics and here is the statement issued by them at that time:

“The following statement is FDA’s position on the matter of reuse of breast pumps labeled for a single user. FDA does not regulate the sale of individual breast pumps by individuals to other individuals. Rather, we regulate these medical devices when they are in interstate commerce. We have not said that this practice is legal or illegal. Instead, we have the following position, which recommends that if the pump cannot be adequately disinfected between uses by different mothers, that the pump not be used by different mothers.” “FDA advises that there are certain risks presented by breast pumps that are reused by different mothers if they are not properly cleaned and sterilized. These risks include the transmission of infectious diseases or the risk of improper function. FDA believes that the proper cleaning and sterilization of breast pumps requires the removal of any fluid that has entered the pumping mechanism itself. If proper sterilization of the breast pump can not be achieved, FDA recommends that it not be reused by different mothers.”

If you are considering buying a used breast pump, please determine whether or not the pump is a “single user” pump before purchasing it.

Here is a list of the pumps I have researched :

Most purchase pumps have an open system. This means that the pump motor is “open” to contact with the mother’s milk particles. The breastshield is open to the tubing that attaches to the back of the shield, which is also open to the diaphragm on the pump motor that creates the suction and release. This means that an invisible mist of milk particles can travel from the shield into the tubing and back onto the pump diaphragm. The diaphragm cannot be removed or sterilized, so it cannot be cleaned mothers to insure safety. When there are milk particles on the pump diaphragm, even with a brand new set of bottles, tubing and breastshields, with every suction and release another mother’s milk particles will be blown into your milk. Even if milk particles are not visible, they can still be there.

The following pumps are labeled as “single user” devices:

  • Avent Isis®
  • Evenflo Press and Pump®
  • Evenflo Manual Breast Pump®
  • Gentle Expressions Mini Electric®
  • Gerber Precious Care®
  • Hollister/Ameda® Purely Yours
  • MagMag Mini Electric®
  • Medela Mini electric®
  • Medela Pump In Style® Breast pump
  • Medela Pump In Style® Traveler
  • Medela Pump In Style® Companion
  • Medela DoubleEase® Breast Pump
  • Simplicity®

The following pumps are are designed to be used by multiple users:

These pumps operate on a “closed system”, meaning that it is impossible for milk reach the motor, hence these are safe to be used my multiple mothers.

  • Hollister Elite® Hollister Lact-e®
  • Hollister SMB® Breast pump®
  • Medela Classic® Breast pump
  • Medela Lactina® Breast pump
  • Medela Symphony® Breast pump
  • Bailey Nurture III®

The following pumps are still being researched by me :

  • Whiteriver®

If the pump you are planning to purchase is not listed above, please consult the operating instructions or the box that came with the breast pump when you purchased it. 

From Medela’s Website

Many mothers have asked if they can safely sell, purchase, or use a previously owned breast pump Medela is concerned about the health and welfare of breastfeeding mothers and their babies. Breastfeeding is certainly the best way to feed your baby, and is the gold standard of infant nutrition. There is some evidence, however, that certain serious viruses* may be transmittable through breast milk. For this reason, it is not advisable to use a previously owned breast pump Breast pumps are single-user products, or personal care items, much like a toothbrush, and are registered with the FDA as single user items.

For safety, Breast pumps should never be shared, resold, or lent among mothers. Medela strongly discourages mothers from re-using or re-selling previously owned breast pump equipment. The Medela Pump In Style® Breast pump has an internal diaphragm that cannot be removed, replaced, or fully sterilized. Therefore, the risk of cross-contamination associated with re-using a previously owned pump such as the Pump In Style cannot be totally dismissed. Multiple use of single-user breast pump automatically voids the warranty of the Medela product. Each mother who wishes to express milk with a pump should use a clean, uncontaminated breast pump This is the safest way to eliminate any risk of cross-contamination.

Rental pumps such as the Classic™ and Lactina® pumps are made to be safely used by repeated clients who each use their own clean personal rental kit, therefore avoiding any possible cross-contamination. Rental pumps, when used according to the Medela instructions, are safe to use by multiple mothers who have their own personal kits.

We are aware that different mothers have different pumping needs, and economic situations. For this reason, Medela pumps come in a variety of styles and prices, to fit the needs of many breastfeeding mothers. There are also grant programs available for mothers in need. For information on this and Medela products, ask your local rental station. For product information, availability and pricing, use our Breastfeeding National Network at 1 800 TELL YOU for your rental/retail station. Customer Service is available at 1 800 435-8316 for product questions. If you have any other breastfeeding questions, ask Medela’s lactation consultant.

We are invested in continuing health and safety of mothers and babies. Many mothers who wish or need to express milk regularly find that using a high quality breast pump can help avoid the costly alternative of using artificial baby milk, which sometimes approaches or exceeds $1000 for the first year of baby’s life. Mothers who pump frequently may find that the cost of a high quality breast pump, when compared to the price of artificial baby milk is reasonable, and a wise investment in the present and future health of their children and themselves.

1. *It is believed by some physicians and researchers that human breast milk. can possibly contain viruses if the mother is infected. Such viruses may include CMV (Cytomegalovirus), HIV-Human Immunodeficiency Virus (AIDS), and HTLV-1 (Human T-Cell Leukemia Virus Type 1.)

1. Ruth A. Lawrence, MD, Breastfeeding: A Guide for the Medical Profession
(St. Louis, Missouri: Mosby-Year Book, Inc., 1999), pp. 225.

From Bailey Medical Engineering’s Website

Bailey Medical Engineering is dedicated to supporting women in their decision to breastfeed by providing high-quality products at reasonable prices.

The Nurture III is our premiere product. It was designed by Barry Bailey, engineer and father of two, to be an affordable, practical, durable, hospital-quality breast pump.

On the market for the past decade, the Nurture III has been used, tested and recommended by doctors, lactation consultants, breastfeeding educators, and hospitals.

We stand behind our products with a 30-day customer satisfaction guarantee and a two-year warranty on the Nurture III Double Electric Breast Pump. We offer unsurpassed customer service and support. We’ll issue full credit for returned products accompanied by a return authorization number.

Bailey Medical itself is a close-knit work community, not unlike a family. We all love working here. It is enjoyable to get calls from moms who have used our pump for all their pregnancies and have then loaned the pump to other moms to use. Meet all the folks who work here and see us in our natural environment.

From Avent America’s Website

We at Avent America are always striving to provide mothers with quality products at reasonable prices to help them breastfeed longer. Research has shown that breast milk. can transmit many contagious viruses. It is for this reason that we strongly recommend that you NEVER use a previously owned breast pump. The Isis Breast Pump is considered to be a personal care item and has been designed to be for single use only. Mothers should never share breast pumps. Sharing or using a previously owned breast pump could put you and your baby at a potential risk for exposure to serious health risks.

Some of the viruses that can be within breast milk are:

  • HIV – Human Immunodeficiency Virus (AIDS)
  • HTLV-1 Human T-Cell Leukemia Virus Type I
  • CMV – Cytomegalovirus

When you are using a previously owned breast pump you create the risk of cross contamination. It is for this reason that AVENT AMERICA STRONGLY SUGGESTS NEVER USING, BORROWING, PURCHASING OR SELLING A PREVIOUSLY USED/PRE-OWNED BREAST PUMP.

Since a mother’s breast milk is the most precious gifts of nutrition/health she can give her baby, DON’T take the chance of sharing someone else’s viruses with your baby.

If you have any questions regarding this issue, please feel free to contact us at 1-800-54-AVENT.

Compiled by: Cindy Curtis, RN, IBCLC www.breastfeedingonline.com

This handout may be copied and distributed without further permission, on the condition that it is not used in any context in which the WHO code on the marketing of breastmilk substitutes is violated.