For years there was a distinct difference between the pumps we used at home and the pumps we used in the hospital. The ones in the hospital had to be used by many people, so the standard of safety and cleanliness was different. The ones we used at home were just for one person. According to the FDA, these are classified as multi-user and single user pumps, not the hospital grade term that has grown to be popular. The multi-user pumps had a protective barrier to keep milk from entering the pump motor and possibly transferring bacteria, mold, or virus to future users. This was accomplished in the pump kit itself. It was and is currently called a closed system.

Before the Affordable Care Act (ACA) came along, breast pumps were not usually provided through a mother’s insurance and were commonly seen as an extra purchase. Thankfully, the ACA changed all that. Now we see moms supported in their pumping journeys like we never have before. Although some providers have unscrupulously found ways around providing pumps to moms, most have stepped up and made this a common practice. That opened the door for more competition and an explosion of new, more innovative breast pump brands. This can be confusing, but most companies offer support for new users.

One other benefit which came out of the greater demand for breast pumps was manufacturers realized even moms using single user pumps would be better served by a closed system. This has spurred an influx of single user, closed system pumps. That benefit has been wonderful for moms, but it has also caused some confusion: Why are there so many more parts in my breast pump kit?

For many years we were used to four-part breast pump kits. They would include the flange/breast shield, the breast shield body, the valve membrane, and the tubing. These kits worked well for getting the milk into the bottle, but also, unfortunately, allowed milk to leak into the tubing and, therefore, into the pump motor. The addition of the closed system at the top of the bottle provided a barrier to keep milk from getting into the tubing, which keeps milk from entering the motor and saves the cost of replacing it. This was a good advancement for moms and babies, because they no longer risked transferring bacteria, mold or viruses grown in the motor or tubing. However, this added extra parts to the kit, and extra confusion for moms. Regrettably, those of us in the lactation community, have been slow to educate moms on the need for these extra parts, and have, inadvertently added to the frustration and confusion.

So yes, more parts do take time to get used to. But just like anything else, once you understand the importance of the parts, it is a reasonable transition to make. And really, if you are pumping three times a day, five days a week, you’ll have pumped 780 times in a year and you’ll be a master! The extra protection is worth the learning curve, don’t you think?

About The Author

This article was written by Renee E Davis, IBCLC. Renee has been the lead IBCLC at Rumble Tuff since October 2018. She is a former WIC Peer Counselor, doula, and midwifery assistant. She currently has a private lactation practice in central Missouri.

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