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

Parenty’s resident lactation consultant, Carey Haupt, explains what you need to know to prevent mould build up in your breast pump.

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 is 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. That 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.

And I saw and read things I will never unsee or unlearn. Yuck.

Have you ever tried it? I dare you to look up “mould in breast pump” on google images. Apart from having a mild heart attack, I realize 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 I should be aware of and worried about.

Closed System Breast Pumps

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 from 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.

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 various flange sizes.

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.

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. And 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, mould or viruses) can move between the two. 

Thrush on your nipples. Ouch!

As an example, let’s look at thrush. If you get thrush on your nipples (sadly it is known to happen) the fungi spores 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.

Do your homework first.

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.


buying a breast pump

  • Registered Dietitian
  • M(Msc)
  • Certified Lactation consultant
  • I became a dietitian because of my interest in breastfeeding and nutrition. However, only when I had my two children both prematurely did, I realise how much help and support mother’s needs. No textbook can prepare you for NICU. My breastfeeding experience with my children is why I became a lactation consultant. I now help mothers in their homes with breastfeeding issues. Another of my dreams was to establish My Breastpump. My Breastpump was created to supply mothers with affordable, quality, hygienic and comfortable breast pumps. This desire came from my struggles in finding a breast pump that worked for me. While overseas I learnt about the Ameda brand of breast pumps which is internationally recognised as a leading breast pump in technology and focus on mothers. My Breastpump hires out closed system hospital-grade pumps and supplies personal pumps and accessories. To learn more about My Breastpump go to www.mybreastpump.co.za

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