Using a Breastpump

Archived Q&A and Reviews

  • Breast Pumps: Electric vs. Manual
  • Mildew in breast pump tubing
  • Borrowing a Breast Pump
  • Hands-free Operation
    See also:
  • Working while breastfeeding
  • Pumping while travelling
  • Breastpump Recommendations

  • Mildew in breast pump tubing

    October 2003

    Kind of a nasty question -- I recently found mildew in the plastic tubing for my Pump In Style. I will replace it with fishtank tubing, that's not the problem. What I'm wondering is, does anyone have any thoughts about how to keep it from happening again? I have had real trouble getting water out of the tubes, which I'm sure is why I've got mildew (eeyuch). Sara

    Hi there! I had the exact same problem with the Pump In Style tubing and this is what you do: After you finished pumping, detach the suction cups off of the tubes and keep the motor running with just the tubes on. The motor will basically suck fresh air into the tube and that will dry off any condensation left inside the tubes. It works like wonders! Amy
    When this happened to us we called Medela. They said that we could boil the tubing to make it usable again and shake it out to get out as much water as we could. Then, run the pump with just the tubing to run air through it to dry it out. If you do this second part occasionally it should keep them dry and prevent future problems. L
    I had the same problem, so Im very interested to hear the reason it happens. I ordered new tubing from ($4.50 + shipping--look under ''spare parts'') After that I got in the habit of running the pump for 2-3 minutes with just the tubes on it while I cleaned up. This cleared any accumulated moisture, and I never had the problem again.
    To let the tubes ''dry out'', after pumping, I leave my pump on, with tubes in place, while I'm cleaning the attachments and dealing with the milk. The air that sucks into the tubes eliminates all of the condensation. This has worked well for me. I'm on my second child with the same breast pump and I haven't had to replace the tubes. Louise
    I use an eyedropper with rubbing alcohol into each opening of the pump tubing, then hang dry. Also - Medela now makes a microwave steralization kit with directions for tubing. I used the microwave kit while on vacation - very handy! -Wendy Bell Wendy
    I used my blow dryer on low setting. Seemed to work fine. Lori
    A rep from one of the breastpump companies gives this suggestion gor cleaning tubing: pour a bit of rubbing alcohol into the tubing and then swing the tubing around to flush out the tubing. eve
    I had the same problem. Now I just leave the pump going for a few minutes after disconnecting the tubes from the sheilds -- it circulates some air thru the tubes and dries out the condensation. christie
    Here are the methods I have used for successfully getting rid of moisture and water in the tubing.

    1. For the condensation that builds up during use - After you are done pumping open the suction up to the lowest and flip the speed up the the highest and run the pump with the horns disconected. For me, doing this whild I was packing up was long enough to get rid of the condensation.

    2. For water in the tubes if you decide to wash out your old ones instead of tossing them - Hold your tubes at one and an swirl them around like a lasso... the water will move down to the ends and be flung out.

    You can get mildew out of the tubes through washing with a bleach solution. You can also boil them for a few minutes to sterilize them. If you bought your pump new, you might not want to use fish tank tubing... Medela is pretty fussy about fixing pump parts if non-Medela parts are used with it. They say it voids the warranty. New tubes are pretty inexpensive. You can get them at local stores or buy them on line. Rose

    Borrowing a Breast Pump

    May 2002

    I've heard of conflicting advice about borrowing someone's breastpump. I have a Medala pump in style and my sister in law was going to buy the kit to have her own tubing & bottles, etc. but she was told that the milk actually goes into the pump and there is no way to clean it out. It looks like the ''pump'' is just a suction mechanism and the milk stays in the tubing. Ali

    When my daughter was born, the price of a new breast pump was prohibitive. I spoke with a lactation consultant about re-using a Medela pump-in-style, and she told me that the concern is that milk sometimes does back up through the tubes into the suction mechanism. And since milk is a bodily fluid, there is reason to worry about contamination. When I explained my financial situation, she told me, in an off-the-record way, that I would probably be fine if I removed the plastic cap that covers the suction mechanism, sterilized it (boiling water) and used alcohol to thoroughly clean the rubber suction thingy. There definitely was dried milk on that part and I would not have known to clean it had she not told me. I also sterilized the tubing, pump shields, and milk containers. (If you can afford it, you can buy all the removable pieces -- even the plastic shield -- new.)

    Moral of my story: I took the calculated risk of my home-done sterilization job, and all is well with my baby, who is now almost two. You might just want to know that the person you're borrowing the pump from doesn't have Hepatitis or HIV or whatever else can be transmitted through bodily fluids. -- Ilana

    I don't have a Pump in Style but I seriously doubt that the milk goes up the tubing and into the pump. Have you ever seen the milk do that? If she has her own horns and tubing it should be fine. Get the most out of the pump that you can. If she is uncomfortable with just your word, she can contact a lactation consultant or Le Leche League and ask the question. If she still is not convinced she may have to buy her own pump. Another good resource is the Yahoo group pumpingmoms. There are a lot of emails, but you can sign up for web posting only. Great to hear that two more women are pumping. Joelle
    The breastmilk most definitely does NOT go into the pump or even the tubes for the Medela Pump In Style. It goes right from the breast into the suction cups where it drips into the bottles. I have borrowed them before. On one occasion, I did soak the tubes in a tub of water with some bleach, because the tubes had gotten wet and there was some mold in them. If you are squeamish about borrowing, you can always do that to the tubes, bottles etc. Can't do it to the pump though! If you are further concerned, contact Medela and they can assure you that the milk does not go through the pump or tubes. Hilary
    Regarding borrowing a breast pump, both the FDA and Medela classify Pump in Styles as single user pumps. They are an ''open loop'' system (unlike the rental pumps which are a closed loop system). There are cases where milk can back up into the tubing, and into the internal breast pump diaphram, which cannot be removed and sterilized.

    That being said, milk backing up into the tubes is pretty rare, and the owner of the pump would likely know if this had happened. In reality, many people borrow or buy used Pump in Styles, and simply buy new tubing, horns, and bottles, etc.

    It's all based on the risk of disease transmission the used pump user is willing to bear (and the risk is very small).

    If you are loaning the pump out, you might want to also consider whether you will use it again. Although Pump in Styles last quite a long time, they do eventually wear out, and you don't want to be stuck with having to buy a new one. Sherry

    Milk does not go into the pump. At most, you get a teeny tiny bit of condensation in the tubing. I pumped for a year with my first child, and am up to Month 5 with the second, both on the same pump, and feel qualified as an expert here. There is absolutely NO reason even to buy new bottles and tubing, because one can boil the tubing and bottles and bits and pieces that you already have and they'll be nice and sanitized for the next user. That having been said, I think Medela advises against using the same tubing, etc. but I view that as marketing propaganda. If it were not, I would have had to buy new bottles, tubing, cone-shaped thing, etc. for my second kid, because surely there would have been a problem with Kid #2 using milk from a pump contaminated with milk pumped for Kid #1 years ago. Tell your sister-in-law to save her money, and to boil up a pot of water. Wendy
    You can loan out your Pump In Style with no fears of germs, contamination, etc provided you do not supply the kit to your sister-in-law as well, as you planned. Milk doesn't enter the pump - you're right, it's just a pumping mechanism. I think Medela instructs people not to share pumps for liablity reasons for fear that they may share kits/tubes/bottles as well - AND to make more sales, of course. Signed, a mom who used a used pump!
    The milk does not go through the pump or the tubing - the only parts that touch the milk are the cups forward. Many people feel that just sterilizing the tubes, cups, valves and bottles is sufficient, but I personally have replaced all those parts after I borrowed a pump from a friend. You can call Medella at 800-435- 8316, I have found them to be very informative. Happy Pumping
    I used the Pump In Style for 2 kids. Milk shouldn't go into tubing unless you knock over your bottles while pumping. The tubing just conveys the suction. When I knocked over the bottles and milk was sucked into pump, I just ran machine without tubing to dry it out. Machine works fine & no milk smell. Brenda
    It is not true that the milk enters the Medela pump. I have lent my pump to two of my friends now (each bought their own kit of supplies) and mixing of milk has never been an issue. Jennifer
    I don't think there is anything wrong with borrowing a pump. I borrowed a friends and knows lots of women who have done the same. As long as you get your own kit it is fine. Pump borrower
    My Pump-In-Style pump has been used by two of my friends and with both of my children (5 kids in all!) We didn't share the tubes or bottles. I always thought that it was something of a scam by the company and their representatives to tell new moms not to share. Hospitals rent pumps...hmmm... Jill
    The medela breast pump has a suction mechanism which is separate from the milk collecting mechanism. The tubes never come into contact with the milk. She can buy her own set of bottles and those cups that touch the breasts etc...and use yours with no problem. I borrowed one for my first baby and fully intend to buy a used one before I have a second child. Whitney
    the breast pump manufacturers do not recommend using anyone else's breast pump. however, i borrowed my friend's medela pump- in-style, but i did purchase my own tubing, bottles, and breast shields. then when there was a used one available from a consignment store, i brought it. i used it for two babies and then passed it on to my cousin who got new attachments. none of us had any problems. suzie
    The PIS has an internal membrane that cannot be replaced (or so Medela says, I suspect it could be if you knew how to disassemble and reassemble the motor). If the milk backs up during pumping and flows down the tubes it could get onto this membrane. Therefore, Medela and the FDA warn about second-hand pumps becoming vectors for the transmission of HIV and Hepatitis. Personally, I think this makes no sense, as both of those pathogens cannot live long outside a host. And for transmission to occur, the milk would have to overflow again, get down to the membrane, become infected with the microbe, and then come into sufficient contact with an exposed mucous membrane. At least that is how I imagine it would happen. Frankly, it seems unlikely to me, but that is just my opinion. If you never overflowed into the motor, I can't imagine what could be the problem. Just my two cents. debbi
    I bought a medela pump from someone, bought new tubes, valves, etc. and used it. I asked my lactation consultant about it, she said there was a case of hepatitis transmitted when mothers shared a kit a while ago so the official line from the company has to be no sharing for liability reasons but she did not think it risky. Kristine
    Yes, it is rare for milk to back up into the Medela Pump in Style but certainly possible. As my son's appetite grew, so did my milk supply and if I did not watch carefully (I often read at work while pumping) I would overflow into the tubes. So, milk CAN get into the tubing and into the pump itself. This does not happen to the hospital pumps or pumps you rent because those are closed systems with a barrier to prevent milk from overflowing into the pump mechanism itself.

    Of course, you can sterilize tubes, bottles, horns etc. That is not the problem (I used several friends' old Medela bottles and horns so I could have a large number of sterilized bottles for my own use and ready to go). It is difficult, however, to sterilize the pump itself if milk has gone into it. One previous poster to the parents website suggested how to clean/sterilize the diaphragm membrance (and note she did find dried milk in there !), and that would probably be good enough IF YOU TRUSTED THAT THE PERSON YOU GOT IT FROM WAS A FRIEND WHO WAS UNLIKELY TO HAVE HIV OR HEPATITUS. Perhaps I'm too cautious, but I would never buy a used pump from Ebay or a consignment store !

    As for accusing Medela of just trying to make more money ... If you became infected with HIV or hepatitus because you weren't properly warned about the risk -- even if it is so rare that you and your infant were the only ones in the US to be so affected -- wouldn't you be more than just a little bit upset ? Wouldn't you hit them with the largest lawsuit you possibly could for not warning you ? So, while they are indeed trying to avoid lawsuits, they are also giving you a warning of a real potential risk, even if it is small.

    Anyway, milk can get sucked up into the pumps, from my own experience from pumping twice a day at work for 9 months. So I would advise being cautious and knowing and trusting the person you borrow or buy a used pump from. KB

    Hands-free Operation

    Oct 1998

    I'm using a Pump N Style pump. Can someone advise me on how to pump without holding the two bottles the whole time? If I don't press them Charlotte

    FOR CHARLOTTE: When I was at Rockridge Kids recently I saw a $10 packet of attachments that allows one to use the PumpNstyle w/o hands. Iwonder if one has to have a Medela nursing bra for the hooks, etc. to attach properly? I didn't buy it because it looked fussy to use. I have been advised not to pump for longer than 15 min, sothe time trade off didn't seem worth it. Melanie
    My dear, you simply must get the Medela hands-free option. Essentially it's two plastic cuffs with a number of little posts on them that fit around the part of the pump that goes over the breast (I don't have the manual here to tell me what all the parts are called - sorry). The whole thing is then attached to your bra with a set of rubber bands (the kit comes with a number of them, in different sizes) and voila, you have your hands free. The down side is that, if you don't have Medela nursing bras, you have to sew something onto your bras to fasten the rubber bands to; I spent a happy morning sewing largish eyes from a set of hooks and eyes onto my bras. If you do have Medela bras, of course, you are home free. Although it means that you have rubber bands dangling from your bra, I felt this was a small price to pay; it isn't as if nursing bras are intrinsically attractive garments to start with. The hands-free kit is available for about $11 at Rockridge Kids, and I am sure you can get it at other places, such as the lactation center behind Alta Bates on Regent, at Berkeley Baby, at Baby World. I have been pumping at work 3-4 times a day for almost 4 months using this setup, and find it vastly superior to sitting around holding the damn things to my breasts; I can use the computer, the phone, etc. Also, because you can somewhat adjust the tension, you can get a nice snug fit, which should address your leaking concerns. I've called Medela to tell them that I think the hands-free kit should be a standard component of the pump at purchase. Hope this helps. Wendy