Hand Me Down Breast Pump: Good Idea or Not?

Breastfeeding is a wonderful and critical stage in your baby’s development. It’s the optimal way to feed your baby and ensure they get the necessary nutrients they need to grow and thrive. For working moms, those who choose to exclusively pump, or moms that need to be away from their baby from time to time, a breast pump is an essential part of their breastfeeding journey. A common question many new moms have is: is it safe to use a hand me down breast pump?

Can I use a friend’s hand me down breast pump?

According to the FDA, breast pumps should be single use devices since there is no way to guarantee that a breast pump can be cleaned and disinfected between uses by different women. Additionally, using a hand me down pump may violate the manufacturers warranty meaning you may not be able to get help from manufacturer if a problem arises. These may be strong enough reasons for you not use a hand me down pump. However, many pumping moms feel that the answer is more nuanced.

Determining if you should use a hand me down pump depends on several factors, including the type of breast pump, the cleanliness of the pump, and the potential health risks that may arise from using a used breast pump. Let’s take a closer look at each of these factors to help you make an informed decision.

Related article: The Top 3 Best Pumps for Working Moms

Determine if the Hand Me Down Pump is an Open or Closed System

There are two types of breast pumps available on the market: open system breast pumps and closed system breast pumps. If a friend or sister has offered you a hand me down pump, find out what kind of breast pump it is. A simple Google search should be able to answer this.

Related article: How Does Breast Milk Smell? Sweet! Find Out More Here.

Closed System Breast Pumps

Closed system breast pumps have a sealed barrier between the milk collection kit and the pump’s motor, preventing any breast milk from entering the pump’s tubing, motor, or other internal parts. This design makes them easier to clean and sanitize properly, reducing the risk of contamination and the spread of infectious diseases. The majority of breast pumps available for purchase are designed with closed systems.

If the hand me down pump is a closed system breast pump, it is probably fine to use provided you purchase new tubing (available on Amazon), pump flanges (available on Amazon), membranes and valves (available on Amazon), bottles (available on Amazon), and any other part that comes into contact with milk. You will essentially just be using the motor of the hand me down pump with all new pump parts.

Related article: The 5 Best Hands Free Pumping Bras According to Real Moms

Open System Breast Pumps

Open system breast pumps, on the other hand, have an open collection kit or cups that come in direct contact with the mother’s breast milk. While this design makes them more affordable and accessible, they can be harder to clean and sanitize properly, increasing the risk of contamination. For this reason, if the hand me down pump is an open system, it is not recommended to use. Sanitizing an open system breast pump is much harder than a closed system pump.

Related article: Pros and Cons of Pumping Before Birth – Good Idea or Not?

Potential Health Risks of a Hand Me Down Pump

If you decide to use a used breast pump it may pose potential health risks to both you and your baby if all of the parts are not properly sterilized. As we’ve mentioned, the primary concern with using a used breast pump is the risk of contamination. Breast milk can carry bacteria and viruses, and if the pump is not cleaned and sanitized correctly, these pathogens can grow and spread.

Related article: Can I Reuse Bottles for Second Baby? Yes, But Consider This.

If you decide to use a hand me down pump, it is essential to ensure that it has been cleaned and sanitized correctly. This includes disassembling the pump, washing all parts with warm soapy water, and then sterilizing them. Sterilization can be achieved through boiling or using a microwave sterilizer bag (available on Amazon).

If you know the hand me down pump is a closed system and is coming from a healthy mom with no chronic illnesses or conditions, it is likely fine to use the used breast pump. However, if you don’t know the mother or her health status, keep in mind that HIV and hepatitis can be transmitted through breast milk. These viruses can be left on a breast pump and potentially cause harm to you or your baby.

Related article: The 5 Best Bottles for Breastfed Babies

Alternatives to a Hand Me Down Pump

All breastfeeding moms in the United States are entitled to a free breast pump for every pregnancy through their insurance. It’s the law! If you don’t have health insurance, most states do offer pregnancy insurance through their state Medicaid program. Contact your OBGYN or local hospital for more information.

If you need help ordering a breast pump, check out our article on How to Quickly & Easily Get a Free Breast Pump. We’ve partnered with Aeroflow, a medical equipment company, who handles processing your insurance, providing you a selection of breast pumps, and sending you a breast pump all for free. We can’t recommend them enough!

Related article: Breast Pump Not Working? Here’s 5 Troubleshooting Tips to Try.

Ultimately, using a used breast pump isn’t recommended by the FDA for the reasons we outlined above. If you decide to use a hand me down pump, make sure it’s a closed system pump coming from someone you know is healthy and disease free. The safety of you and your baby is the top priority. Using a new breast pump may be the best option if there are any doubts about the safety of a hand me down pump.

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Shannon founded Work Breastfeed Mom in 2019 during her second round of pumping at work. She was tired of googling the same pumping questions over and over again, and discouraged at the lack of websites aimed at working breastfeeding moms. So, she created one herself. Shannon lives, works, and doles out Puffs to her little people in sunny Florida. She has her MBA and works as a strategic planner for a large healthcare system. She is passionate about coffee, memoirs, paddle boarding, and skincare routines. Shannon is mom to Scarlett and Ivy, and hopes to have more babies if her career allows.