Mold in a breast pump? Yes, it can happen!!

By Carey Haupt RD(SA) SACLC
Created: 24 October, 2019

The first time I needed a breast pump, I did not know that there were “closed” and “open system” breast pumps. In fact, I naïvely did not know that it was important. I just went along with what everyone else used.

In the beginning I was an exclusive pumper because my son was in NICU. This means that I pumped day and night basically around the clock. I started to notice that when I had a really strong let down (that was a good thing) my milk started to get stuck in the tubes of the pump (I did not think this was a good thing). I started to worry about “How do I clean the milk out? “. I really did not want sour breast milk in my tubing. T hat would just be gross. The more I thought about it the more worried I became. I did what every self-respecting mother would do….. I googled it.

Try googling mold in breast pumps

Oh my….. what a scare I had. Have you ever tried it? I dare you to use google images and look up “mold in breast pump”. Apart from having a mild heart attack, I realized that I should not just be concerned about “off milk’ in the tubes but there could be worst things going on in my breast pump. I wondered “Why were people not talking about this?” There are real risks to using an open system breast pump and as my baby was in NICU I did feel like this was something to really worry about. note of.

Closed vs Open System Breast Pump

After a bit more researching, I found out that there are closed system breast pumps. This means that there is some type of barrier that stops the breast milk (moisture and other nasties) from getting into your breast pump. This was great to find out. I then also found out that not all closed systems are equal. Some have the closure at the pump which allows for the nasties to collect in the tubing and then there are closed systems that close off the entire pump system from the flange (the thingy that sticks to your breast). The closer the closure is to the flange the better as this stops nasties for growing in the tubing. I loved the idea of having a breast pump that did not allow for breast milk to enter the tubing. Firstly so that no nasties would grow and secondly what a waste of breast milk. Every drop counted for me.

Ameda- Complete Closed System

The closed system brand that I found that had a complete closed system (at the flange) is Ameda. It is not a well-known brand in South Africa but very well established in the rest of the world. It is also code-compliant which means that it is proactive in the promotion, protection, and support of breastfeeding. I was also surprised to find out that it was the original breast pump. It was designed by a Belgium engineer and then the company was bought over by an American company (now it has international reach). Ameda has included mothers in their research and development of their breast pumps. Thus, they have different size flanges. Yes, women have different sized nipples! Not all breast flanges are comfortable for moms and this can really affect how much they can express and even cause damage if their fit is not comfortable.

Real Benefits of a Closed System

Ameda was the only breast pump that I could find that had an FDA approval on their closed system. This means that they have tested their system and found it to be effective in separating the flange and breast milk from the tubing and pump. How it works is amazingly simple. The flange only has 4 parts which make it so easy to clean and put together. The parts are the collection bottle, the flange, the duckbill valve, and the silicone diaphragm. The silicone diaphragm is the key. It completely separates the milk from the pump. So, no milk, moisture or nasties (bacteria, mold or viruses) can move between the two. As an example, let’s look at thrush. If you get thrush on your nipples (sadly it is known to happen) the fungi sores can then move through an open system pump and grow in the tubing or your pump. This can later re-infect your nipples. What a nightmare. With a closed system, this cannot happen.

Breast pumps are an investment and they are an invaluable help. You need to do your homework and look at all the aspects. You need to find out if the pump you purchase will fit all your needs. Things to consider are:

  1. is it a closed system?
  2. how much noise does it make?
  3. how do the setting work, will the flanges fit my breasts?
  4. how long is the warranty?
  5. is the pump in my price range?

After you have done your research and got your pump you can pump when you need to and most importantly of all enjoy spending time with your baby.