If youâre giving your baby breast milk, you probably know there can be times when a breast pump can come in handy.
Breast pumps are medical devices regulated by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration. They can be used to maintain or increase a womanâs milk supply, relieve engorged breasts and plugged milk ducts, or pull out flat or inverted nipples so a nursing baby can latch on more easily.
& there are important safety considerations if you use one.
What kinds of breast pumps are available?
A. Breast shield: Cone-shaped cup that fits over the nipple & surrounding area.
B. Milk container: Detachable container that fits below the breast shield & collects milk as it is pumped.
C. Pump: Creates the vacuum that expresses milk. The pump may be attached to the breast-shield or have plastic tubing to connect the pump to the breast shield.
Breast pumps include a breast shield that fits over the nipple, a pump that creates a vacuum to express (or pump) milk, & a detachable container for collecting milk.
Pumps can be manual or powered. Powered pumps can use batteries or a cord that plugs into an electrical outlet. Some pumps even have an adapter for use in the car. (Obviously not while youâre driving, however!)
Double pumps extract milk from both breasts at the same time, while single pumps extract milk from one breast. (Find food safety tips for babies, including breast milk storage tips, on the FDAâs website.)
The Affordable Care Act requires most insurance plans to cover the cost of a breast pump as part of womenâs preventive health services. You can talk to your insurance company about its coverage.
Is it safe to rent or share a breast pump?
Renting or sharing these devices can be dangerous if pumps are not designed for multiple users.
âConsumers should be aware of the hazards of renting or sharing a breast pump that is not designed for multiple usersâeven with family and friends,â says H. Paige Lewter, an electrical engineer & device reviewer in the FDAâs Obstetrics and Gynecology Devices branch. âContaminated breast pumps could cause you and your baby to develop an infection.â
âEven if a used device looks really clean, potentially infectious particles may survive in the breast pump and/or its accessories for a surprisingly long time,â adds Michael Cummings, M.D., an FDA obstetrician-gynecologist.
- Manual breast pumps are designed for one user only (single use) and should never be rented or shared for safety reasons.
- Powered breast pumps that are designed for single users should never be rented or shared.
- Sharing a breast pump may violate the manufacturerâs warranty, which means you may not be able to get help from the manufacturer if you have a problem with the pump.
- The FDA does not recognize the term âhospital grade,â so this term doesnât mean a pump is safe.
The bottom line for sharing breast pumps designed for single users? Donât do it.
And if you rent or share from an authorized provider (such as a hospital, lactation consultant, or specialty medical supply store), do so only if the pump is designed for multiple users. & do so only if you have your own accessories kit to avoid contamination. The accessories kit typically includes the milk container, breast-shield, & tubing.
âMultiple-user pumps are designed so that the breast milk can never touch the working parts of the pump that are shared,â says Lewter. âThe only part of a multiple-user breast pump that you can safely share is the pump itself.â
What kind of breast pump should you buy?
If you purchase a pump, consider your needs. For instance, if youâll use the pump only at home, one that plugs into the wall may be fine. But if youâll pump at work or otherwise away from home, you may want to consider a device thatâs easy to carry and battery-powered.
- You should never buy a previously used or âpre-ownedâ pump designed for single users. Thatâs because these pumps sold secondhand also can expose you & your baby to contamination.
- Buying a used pump may violate the manufacturerâs warranty.
If youâre not sure which pump or accessories to get, talk to a health care professional who has expertise in breastfeeding.
How should you clean a breast pump?
Contamination can happen even to your personal pump if it is not cleaned properly.
âCorrect use and cleaning helps protect you and your baby,â says Lewter.
The FDA recommends cleaning & disinfection between uses. You should read the manufacturerâs instructions for specific information on how to keep your pump clean.
In general, steps for cleaning include:
- Rinsing each piece that comes into contact with breast milk in cool water as soon as possible after pumping;
- Washing each piece separately using liquid dishwashing soap & plenty of warm water;
- Rinsing each piece thoroughly with hot water for 10 to 15 seconds; and
- Placing the pieces on a clean paper towel or in a clean drying rack & allowing them to air dry.
âWiping the pump body with ethanol or isopropyl alcohol at 70 to 90 percent concentrationâor boiling the breast pump parts in waterâgenerally is also acceptable,â Lewter notes. âIf the tubing looks moldy or cloudy, stop use & replace the tubing immediately.â
If youâre renting or buying a multiple-user device, ask the person providing the pump to make sure all components (including internal tubing), have been cleaned & disinfected according to the manufacturerâs instructions.
How can you report problems with these devices?
If a breast pump is not working as it shouldâfor instance, if there are electrical problems or issues with suctionâyou can contact the manufacturer for recommendations on what to do with your device.
If youâre injured while using a breast pump or have pain, contact your health care provider. The FDA also encourages you to report injuries or problems with regulated devices to the agency. You can file a voluntary report by cellphone at 1-800-FDA-1088 or online at MedWatch, the FDA Safety Information and Adverse Event Reporting program.
Reviewed: May 4, 2018
For More Information
Related Consumer Updates