Recycling Your Breast Pump

Ok, Mama. You’ve finished your breast pumping journey, or have decided it’s time to get a new pump. What do you do with your old pump? There are some definite dos and don’ts when it comes to disposing of an old breast pump.

Borrowing Used Breast Pumps

We understand that it may feel good as a mom to help other moms and friends out by donating a used pump to someone in need, or to save hundreds of dollars by finding a used one for yourself, but please use caution!

Is a Used Breast Pump Safe?

We tell most women it is not a good idea to share a used personal grade breast pump (a hospital grade breast pump is designed for multiple users). The FDA considers breast pumps to be single-user devices. Because there is no way to guarantee the pump is disinfected, reused breast pumps could carry infectious particles.

Open System vs Closed System

Open system pumps do not have a protective barrier to prevent cross-contamination among multiple users. This means reusing breast pumps or letting a friend borrow yours is dangerous because diseases and pathogens can be found in the milk of infected mothers. Also, if the original pump user had cracked bleeding nipples at any point then it pump could be contaminated with blood.

Closed system breast pumps do have replaceable and protective barriers between the milk collection kit and pump mechanism to prevent contamination, however purchasing a used closed system pump is still not a safe bet.
These pumps are often only designed to be used by one mother. As a result, most only have a one year manufacturer’s warranty, that can be voided once the pump is passed along to another mother.

And remember before you share, replacing the tubing and cleaning each possible part does not get rid of every stubborn infectious or fungal pathogens, bacteria, and mold that like to hang out in the washers, diaphragm, or motor.

So What Do You Do With Your Pump?

Do not be surprised if your breast pump donation does not go as planned. Many Women, Infant, and Children (WIC) and other donation centers will reject used pumps to comply with used breast pump safety standards in order to prevent contamination. Most groups who will accept them are unaware of the risks.

However, there are some breast pump recycling programs like Medela Recycles, that can help pumps stay out of landfills (but please note, this program will only accept Medela breast pumps.)

If you have another brand of breast pump, we recommend contacting the manufacturer to see if they have a recycling program put in place. Or, you can contact your local recycling center or electronic recycling site to see if they will accept your pump. Plastic parts like flanges milk storage containers, valves, etc.. can be recycled in your home recycling bin.

Remember that knowledge is power, share the word about the dangers of used pumps, and the availability of recycling programs.

Information provided in blogs should not be used as a substitute for medical care or consultation.