Dump Your Pump: A Guide to Breast Pump Sharing

From the different kinds of breast pumps to the rules regarding sharing them when you’re done, this guide will help you decide if and how breast pump sharing can be done. Read on for details!

Breastmilk-pumping mamas, this is a blogomercial about the meaning behind “single user” breast pumps.  There is a risk behind sharing single-user breast pumps. Not only can they transmit germs (super icky ones), but they can also make your supply dive.  Pump engines come with a “life” on them, in hours form. This is an average time that pumps continue working well.  How the pump was used, how the pump was cared for and stored (heat, humidity, etc), and how old it is really can affect use down the road.  I hope this guide will help you choose the best pump for your situation.

african american woman with baby girl working from home

Kinds of Breast Pumps

  • Double Electric pumps:

These can be closed-system or open-system.  Depending on the brand (with varying suction and cycle), these can be used for maintaining supply while away from baby. With double electric pumps, there are single-user and rental grade.  With the exception of rental grade, all warranties void when they exchange hands (boobs) since the suction, strength, cycles, etc. can’t be easily quantified. Rental grade pumps have many more “hours” to their life, can be serviced, and are easily repaired.

  • Closed-system single-user pump:

This means milk cannot get back into the engine and these are meant for one mom. These can be passed along to another mother if they weren’t used super frequently (like full-time at work pumping). Your best bet is buying new tubing, flanges, etc. since these break down with wear and tear.

  • Open-system single-user pump:

This means milk can get back into the engine. These should NOT be passed along to another mother.

  • Hand pumps:

These are great for occasional pumping. These aren’t really reliable for keeping supply up if you’ll be pumping, say, at a full-time job. The suction can be too strong for some.  You probably won’t see many hand pumps around that are used, but buy new anyway.  It costs you just about as much to buy new replacement valves and whatnot.


Check your insurance

According to the Affordable Care Act, “Health insurance plans must provide breastfeeding support, counseling, and equipment for the duration of breastfeeding.” With that being said, they often interpret this to mean whatever the heck they want.  Some moms are surprised to find that they only have a hand pump covered.  It’s stressful to figure that out right before returning to work!

*If you’re one of the many moms in the area that need to use Medicaid for health insurance while pregnant and after, in Iowa, you won’t get any pump through insurance.  You’ll have to contact your local WIC office to see if they have any available for rental. Services can vary based on funding, so they might have nothing, they might have rental-grade loaner pumps (the Ferraris of pumps), and they might give you a double-electric.*

Sharing Your Pump

It’s a GREAT idea to pass along your pump when you are finished with it.  An option you might not know about is donating parts back to Medela, a pump manufacturer, for recycling. When you’re shopping for a pump, and/or if your insurance gives you options, look for “closed-system.”  If you used the pump less than pumping for full-time work or exclusively pumping, it should have “life” left on it to pass along to another part-time pumping mom.

One Tip for Buying a Breast Pump

As a mom that’s “been there” with trying to rationalize paying for a thing necessary to keep breastfeeding going, I recognize that it’s tough, often financially (we’ve REALLY been there).  With that being said, it’s worth registering for one when you make your baby registry. It would be a great gift for friends and family to chip in on.

If you need extra help navigating what your legal rights are and what questions you should ask your employer, feel free to contact the Iowa Breastfeeding Coalition.


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