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Buying a Used Breast Pump: Is It Safe? Here’s the 411

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Buying a brand new electric breast pump can be expensive. Even, with health insurance. If buying a used breast pump is something you’re considering, this article contains everything you need to know BEFORE making that decision.

You really want to breastfeed your child. However, you can’t justify spending hundreds of dollars on a breast pump you’re not even sure will work for you.

Certain pumps work great for different women, which makes selecting a good option a little more tricky. Don’t worry. We’re going to be talking about all things breast pumps and when you should or shouldn’t buy them used!

Buying A Used Breast Pump, Is It Safe?

There are a few things that go into whether or not buying a used breast pump is a safe option.

Obviously, purchasing a new pump greatly minimizes the risk of cross-contamination and health risks between you and the previous owner which should always be a top priority.

However, let’s discuss some of the areas that can help decide whether or not buying a used breast pump is safe.

Infographic listing out the pros and cons of buying a used breast pump

What Type of Pump Are you Buying (Open or Closed System)?

It’s always important to know whether your prospective pump is an open system pump or a closed system pump.

Open System Breast Pump: This system does NOT have a barrier to prevent breast milk from going back up into the tubing (and possibly into the pump) during a pumping session. If the system is not regularly cleaned and maintained, it can go unnoticed creating a higher risk of cross contamination.

Closed System Breast Pump: This system DOES have a protective barrier that prevents milk from overflowing back into the tubing and the machine itself. This ensures your milk is always traveling into the collection kit in the most hygienic way. It also prevents leaving any milk particles behind in the pump.

My rule of thumb is to avoid buying open system breast pumps that have been used. You’re not able to sanitize the motor and really ensure it’s sanitary for use.

The good news is that most new pumps are closed system pumps. For example, the Spectra S1 and S2 models, Baby Buddha, and the Medela Pump In Style w/ MaxFlow are all closed systems.

If you’re ever unsure, simply head over to google to locate the pump you’re interested in and read the details to quickly learn whether or not it’s a closed system.

Is it a Single User or Multi User Pump?

Did you know breast pumps are made as either multi-user or single-user pumps? I learned this after giving birth to my first.

A single use breast pump is what the majority of pumps are. They’re created with a single user in mind, meaning the warranty will be void if it’s sold and given to the next user.

A multi-user pump is like a hospital grade breast pump. It was created to have multiple people use — typically each user will have their own set of tubing, backflow protector and other accessories. If you plan to purchase this type of pump, be sure to ask about the warranty specifications.

Even when used, multi-user hospital grade pumps can be pricey. It would be horrible to spend that kind of money on a pump that stops working and has no warranty coverage.

** A note about hospital grade pumps: Be sure to ask for serial number and contact the manufacturer to ensure the pump isn’t stolen. It isn’t uncommon for expensive pumps that were once a rental to get stolen and then resold online.

How Many Hours Has The Pump Been Used?

Some single use pumps have a “max pumping hour span”. Meaning, once the pump is getting close to that max number, you can expect it to not work as well (or just stop working completely).

For example, the Spectra S series has a 1500 hour max lifespan. In general, a new breast pump is created to last at least one year for a full time pumper.

How Much Will You Be Saving Buying Used vs New?

This is another big consideration to think of when purchasing a used pump. Especially, when there are also rental pumps available (oftentimes at no cost to moms through her healthcare plan).

When you buy a used breast pump, a rule of thumb is to replace all the accessories with new parts (new tubing, backflow protectors, new collection kit, new flanges) so that you can get the pump in as close to “new” shape as possible. This will help make your second hand pump more sanitary (unless there is already contamination in the motor).

When you add up the cost of the used pump (let’s say $60 for this example for a Spectra S Series) and new pump parts here is what you could spend in total:

  • Spectra Used Pump: $75
  • Tubing & Backflow Protectors (off brand): $13
  • Spectra (off brand) Flange Set: $18
  • Duckbill Valve Set (off brand): $13
  • New compatible bottles: $20
  • TOTAL (approximately): $139
  • RETAILS NEW FOR: $159-199

As you can see, depending on which pump you plan to purchase used, you might not be saving as much as you think. So if your healthcare insurance is going to give you some kind of discount on a brand new pump, it’s probably a good idea to go with a new pump.

The ONE exception to this could be hospital grade breast pumps. That’s because these retail for hundreds, if not thousands of dollars sometimes. Depending on the selling price, you could land a decent deal, but again — the health risks of using a used pump should be the top priority.

In addition, handheld pumps seem to be rising in popularity. I had one myself and loved it! However, they’re expensive. To learn more about them and if it’s an option for you, read all about my favorite handheld breast pump right here.

pump like a pro breastfeeding class graphic

Alternative Options to Buying a Used Breast Pump

If buying a used breast pump is starting to feel a little too risky (I don’t blame you, I’d be weary too), here are some reasonable alternatives to consider.

Have You Considered a Rental Pump?

I mentioned earlier that renting a breast pump could be an option. A rental pump is great because you know it’s a hospital-grade breast pump, it’s been maintenanced and sanitized by the renal company, and often times is compatible with your insurance plan to cover some or all of the rental payments.

Here’s how to inquire about a rental pump:

  1. Contact your insurance company (as your OB/GYN’s office for a direct line to whoever handles breast pumps)
  2. If your insurance doesn’t cover a rental pump, you can find some retailers online that allow you to pay out of pocket (note, you will likely need a prescription as breast pumps are considered medical devices):

Will Your Health Insurance Provide a Breast Pump?

According to the affordable care act, your health insurance must cover some form of a pump (electric pump or manual pump) at no cost to you or a reduced cost pump (including rentals).

Expensive Pumps Don’t Always Equate Good Pumps

There, the truth is out! Expensive breast pumps don’t always equal good ones! I know plenty of mothers who absolutely LOVE the NCVI Electric Double Pump and this pump is less than $100!

Another popular and pretty affordable option is the Bella Baby Double Electric Breast Pump.

If you’re a bit unsure of which breast pump might be best for you, consider reaching out to some lactation consultants. They work constantly with new mothers who have different pumps so they’re oftentimes very familiar with which pumps are great and which ones aren’t worth all the hype.

For the record, my all-time favorite breast pump is the Spectra. I compared it to my Medela Pump In Style when I was breastfeeding my 2nd and my output was always much more with my Spectra (however, that doesn’t mean it’ll be the same for you).

Buying a Used Breast Pump Final Thoughts

Although buying a used breast pump is a great option for some mothers, it shouldn’t be your first choice. I always suggest exhausting all other alternative options before making the decision to purchase a used pump.

If you do end up purchasing a used breast pump, be sure to ask the previous owner if the pump has ever had any issues, and be prepared to replace some of the basic parts to ensure it’s as sanitary and functional as it can be before your first use.

Have you ever purchased a used breast pump before — what was your experience like? Let us know by leaving a comment below!

Read more breastfeeding articles here:

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