Posted in Amelia, Amelia on parenting angst, Blog, Breastfeeding, Gear, Reviews

Not all breast pumps were created equal

When choosing a breast pump, be aware that not all breast pumps are equal–in design or in company philosophy. I recently came across this article, “The Problems with Medela,” and found it to be very eye-opening.

When you think “breast pump,” I’m guessing you think “Medela.” I know I did. In fact, I have a SECOND-HAND Pump-in-Style gathering dust in E’s closet. And as I may have mentioned, I used the bejeezus out of that thing. So I was horrified to learn that you should NOT use second-hand Medela pumps because they have an “open system,” meaning that “milk can back up through the tubing and contaminate the motor to the pump. And while the tubing can be cleaned or replaced, the motor cannot. That means if milk makes it into the motor, so could a hypothetical seccond user’s, at which a time they’d mix. The motor can’t be cleaned or sanitized, and there’s no way to know if milk ever contaminated it. So, if you’re using a second-hand pump, it might be clean, or it might not.” (Did I mention I’m something of a germaphobe?)

AND? Even if you buy a new one? With the open-system, “if milk or condensation make their way into the tubing and then motor, the pumps can grow mold inside their motors. There’s no way to tell if there’s mold in the pump motor without opening the case. If there is mold, the mold spores will be wishing and wooshing through the pump tubing as the pump runs, coming into contact with the expressed milk. (Not believing this? There are seasoned IBCLCs who will tell you about Medela pumps they’ve cracked to find massive mold growth. This isn’t a remote, small possibility; it’s very real.)” Ew, ew, ew, ew, ew. EW.

So not only can these suckers (no pun intended) get contaminated in myriad ways, but they are bad for the environment as well–it’s all about forced obsolescence: “These $300 breastpumps have to be (are supposed to be) tossed in the trash when moms are finished with them. They are not FDA approved for more than one user.”

Furthermore, there’s this little thing called the World Health Organization’s International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes, which was created to mitigate the reach of formula advertising and to allow breast feeding room to take hold, as studies have shown that the way formula is marketed results in decreased rates of breast feeding. The point of the code is “to ensure that advertisements idealizing and normalizing artificial breastmilk substitutes are limited.” Again, Medela comes up short, with its marketing of infant bottle-feeding systems–a direct violation of WHO code.

While I can’t speak from experience as to the ins and outs of other brands (I was too busy using a contaminated, moldy pump!), the author notes that Hygeia and Ameda are both closed-system pumps, and both companies are also WHO code compliant. Another interesting thing about Hygeia is that it was started by former Medela employees who (as I heard it) did not approve of Medela’s forced-obsolescence policy–so the pumps are MEANT to be reused by multiple women. Sounds pretty good to me.

Photo credit: Inhabitots

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