Thursday, July 15, 2010

Can I buy a used pump?

When it comes to purchasing a pump, putting out the big bucks can be tough.  Sure, we all know that pumping is a whole lot less expensive that formula feeding, but not many of us can spend $150 - $300 on a single item without second guessing ourselves.  If you're shopping online for the best deal on a breast pump (and who isn't?), it doesn't take very long to come across ads for used pumps.

"Only used twice!"  "In like-new condition!!"  "Great deal - 75% off!"

It's tempting to want to save money by buying used  - I love a good deal as much as the next mom- but don't do it!  There are only 2 things you should never ever buy used for your baby - car seats and breast pumps. Nearly all consumer grade pumps (i.e. all of those except hospital rentals) are single user medical products.  Sharing a pump with another woman (or buying used) subjects your baby to a small but very real risk of contracting a serious illness, like HIV, Hepatitis B, HTLV-1 and Candidiasis (thrush), to name a few. A good rule to live by:

If you wouldn't let a woman you don't know nurse your baby, don't use her breast pump!!

Common Questions: 

"I see that I can buy a new collection kit and tubing set - wouldn't that make it safe to by a used pump?"
No. The motor of most consumer electric pumps is not sealed off completely from the collection apparatus, which may allow for small amounts of milk to be sucked into the pump and expelled during a later pumping session.  Hospital grade rental pumps are designed for multiple users and they have completely closed vacuum systems - all that is required is the use of new collection horns/bottles/tubes.
 "I don't see any evidence of liquid in the tubing - can I use it if it looks clean?"
No.  During the pumping process, microscopic droplets of milk can become airborne and then sucked into the tubing and the pump motor without leaving visible evidence of wetness in the tubing.
"Can I buy a pump from Ebay (or similar site)?"
Maybe.  The seller must advertise and guarantee that pump is all of the following: 1)Brand New, 2)In the Original Packaging and 3)Unopened.  I purchased my current pump (for $50 off retail) in just this way from an Ebay wholesaler back in 2008.  It still had the manufacturer's security tape on both the inner and outer packaging.  If the three criteria above are not met, do not buy - it's not worth the risk.
"Which consumer pumps are single user, and which are intended for multiple users?"

Single User Pumps
Avent Isis®
Avent and ISIS IQ UNO  and ISIS IQ DUO  Electronic Breast Pumps
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® Original Breast pump
Medela Pump In Style® Advanced(Carryall,Backpack and Limited)
Medela DoubleEase® Breast Pump
Playtex Embrace®  Breast pump

Multiple User Pumps (new collection kits must be used)
Hollister Elite® Hollister Lact-e®
Hollister SMB® Breast pump®
Medela Classic® Breast pump
Medela Lactina® Breast pump
Medela Symphony® Breast pump
Bailey Nurture III®

"Why isn't it illegal to sell used breast pumps if they're so risky?"
I don't know.  It's likely a combination of allowing adults in a free society to make their own decisions and the difficulty in policing such a law.  The FDA's position on the matter is:
"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." 
Now there's a passive aggressive way to say 'don't buy used' if I ever heard one!  Got questions?  Ask away!

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