Breastfeeding is eco-friendly. Your body makes just what your baby needs. No excess or waste. There’s no formula packaging to throw away. No bottles to clean. No manufacturing or shipping pollution. Even what goes in your baby is highly metabolized.
But what about that breast pump your best friend wants to give you? After all, a breast pump can be one of the more expensive baby items you’ll need and if you can reuse rental pumps, why not a home version?
There are two big reasons you shouldn’t share a breast pump. The first has to do with potential spread of germs and can put your baby at risk. The second has to do with putting your milk supply at risk.
There’s a popular belief that it’s okay to pass along a breast pump as long as you get new tubes and breastshields in order to prevent cross-contamination. Unfortunately, for most breast pumps, that doesn’t take into account the contamination inside of the pump — the parts you can’t see. The suction that helps draw your milk out of your breast and into the bottle also draws the milk particles into the pump itself. On top of the run of the mill bacteria that could be growing inside of the pump that can go into your pumped milk, the pump could be hosting viruses like HIV and hepatitis that could be harmful to you and your baby. In fact, the Food and Drug Administration considers breast pumps medical devices. The FDA website says:
Only FDA cleared, hospital-grade pumps should be used by more than one person. With the exception of hospital-grade pumps, the FDA considers breast pumps single-use devices. That means that a breast pump should only be used by one woman because there is no way to guarantee the pump can be cleaned and disinfected between uses by different women.
The reason for not sharing pumps that few are aware of is related to the pump’s motor. Like your trusty blender that you pull out every summer to whip up margaritas, a breast pump is powered by a strong motor. But like a blender, there are only so many margaritas your blender can handle before it starts slowing down or just quits on you. The breast pumps that you buy at stores like giggle are designed to be used by one user, for one year. It’s why hospital-grade pumps cost exponentially more than a home version- $1200 versus $400 for a top-model Medela.
Think of it this way. If your best friend passes along a pump that she used to pump four times a day, five days a week for her babies that means that you are getting a pump that is well past its prime. The motor may function but not at the capacity that you as a new mom needs it to operate at. The stronger the motor, the more efficient the pump will be. Your friend may not have noticed because she was using it every day and you won’t notice it because you have never used a pump before! However, you will probably be frustrated and disappointed if you are not getting the volume of milk you need to feed your baby while at work. You may end up needing to supplement with infant formula which in the end costs way more than a new breast pump.
So by all means accept your friends’ other breastfeeding accoutrements but when it comes to breast pumps, a new one is always the way to go.
No matter what you do, every day is “Earth Day” when you’re breastfeeding.
Note: If you simply cannot afford a new breast pump, learn how to hand-express your milk. Once you get the hang of it, it’s more efficient and more sanitary than a mechanical pump plus it’s free and totally earth-friendly!
If you’re not comfortable with the notion of buying a pump, and then having to throw it away, to be on the safe side, renting a hospital-grade pump is a more eco-friendly option. The motor is built for multiple users and designed to prevent cross contamination. They’re best for moms of preemies, multiples and those who need to pump for their babies while they’re away from them 8+ hours a day. The expense can be prohibitive, though, to occasional pumpers, costing as much as $60 a month in metropolitan areas.