Not according to the major pump manufacturers and the FDA. Most pumps that are purchased are labeled, single patient or single user, meaning that pump is intended for one user only. Second-hand, single user pumps cannot be legally resold in the United States. It also has been suggested that there may be some legal liability imposed on the original owner of a second-hand pump if it is found to be the source of an illness in the subsequent user.
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. (Lawrence 94) 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.
Consumers and health care providers would not think of sharing other medical equipment, such as syringes, oxygen masks, or catheters, that comes in contact with body fluids. Breastpumps need to be thought of in the same way.
Rental pumps are the only pumps safe to be shared by multiple users because they are specially made to prevent cross contamination. Rental breastpumps are closed systems meaning it is impossible for pathogens to get into the motor or inside housing of the pump. Additionally, each mother is required to purchase her own collection kit and the surfaces of the rental unit are disinfected with solutions made just for this purpose between each user.
I feel it is safest to discourage the use of second-hand breastpumps. I know that cost is the main factor in using a second-hand pump, but remember, you are already saving a considerable amount of money by breastfeeding. Current estimations are $1600.00 to $5,000.00 for the baby's first year of formula. That figure does not include the well-documented increased health care costs of formula feeding. Surely that considerable savings should allow you to purchase a new pump or obtain a rental pump if you need one.
Your health and the health of your baby are too important to risk! If you have any question about the type of pump you have, and the safety of shared use, contact the manufacturer's customer service department, they will be happy to provide you with information.
- Philips Avent
by Kathy Kuhn, RN
- Hollister, product information, May 2001
- Lawrence, Ruth Breastfeeding a Guide for the Medical Professional, Mosby Philadelphia 1994 pp206-210
- Medela Inc. product information, May 2001
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