Is it safe to use a second hand breast pump?

My sister has offered to lend me hers.
Concerned about buying a used breast pump? You definitely should be!!! Although a used pump may be less expensive than a new one (or in your case, free of charge), there are real health issues involved.

Saving a few dollars by purchasing a second hand pump or borrowing a used pump from a friend can have potentially serious consequences for your baby! Retail breast pumps are designed for single mum user only, and use by more than one person may be dangerous because breast milk is a body fluid. As with any other body fluid, some disease organisms are known to be present in the breast milk of infected women. Additionally, if a woman has used the breast pump during an episode of cracked bleeding nipples, blood contamination may have also occurred. Home sterilisation methods cannot ensure the safe destruction of all pathogens especially in the rubber parts such as washers and diaphragms.

In addition, even if you replace parts or get a new collection kit, it is possible that air-born pathogens or droplets of milk that are not visible to the naked eye remain in the internal pump motor and can 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. Some pumps claim to be 'Hospital Grade", this has become a very loosly used word. Hospital grade breast pumps are used in Hospitals, don't be sucked in!

Diseases that can be found in the milk or blood of infected women can be very serious or life threatening. Pathogens like Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), hepatitis, cytomegalovirus (CMV) and others can be found in the breast milk of infected women. These diseases frequently go undiagnosed 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. It just isn't worth the 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 mum who has an especially persistent yeast infection because of the difficulty in ensuring the complete destruction of the fungus even with careful cleaning.

In addition to the health risks of borrowing a pump there are ethical ones as well. I have worked with several mums who purchased or borrowed a used pump from a friend or relative, only to have that pump break or stop operating while they were using it. These mums then felt obligated to purchase a new pump, spending a lot of extra money in the process.

Most breast pumps come with a warranty, but this only applies to the original owner. If you purchase a second hand pump, the warranty is not transferrable and there is no recourse in the event of motor failure or pump problems.

The Food & Drug Administration (FDA) in the US have a statement regarding used breast pumps: "The following statement is FDA's position on the matter of reuse of breast pumps labelled for a single user. 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."

Please consider the health risks very carefully if you are considering purchasing a second hand pump or borrowing a used pump.