If you're on a budget or not sure how long you'll be using a breast pump, then you may be considering buying a second-hand breast pump. There are Facebook groups just for reselling items relating to breastfeeding (the Spectra pumps really hold their value, we've noticed!) and of course there's also eBay. Before you buy a second-hand breast pump, or even just use one that's been gifted to you, be aware that there are real safety & hygiene concerns that you should know about.
Open system pumps cannot be used safely by more than one person.
An open system breast pump is a pump that has no physical barrier between milk and pump motor. With these pumps, breastmilk can travel down the tubing into the pump motor. This can lead to mould growth both inside the pump casing (where you can't see it) and in the tubing. There's also a possible risk that bacteria and pathogens could travel back from the inside of the pump motor to your milk. This is why open system breast pumps are for one person use only. Even if you replace all the tubing, breastshields and bottles etc, you can't sterilise the inside of the breast pump.
Closed system pumps can be used by more than one person, but you MUST replace the kit.
A closed system breast pump has a physical barrier between breastmilk and the pump motor, so there's no way for breastmilk to travel into an area that can't be cleaned and could pose a hygiene risk - if it has been used correctly and parts changed as needed. You can see how this works by looking at the Spectra backflow protector (the UFO looking piece that sits between breastshield and tubing). There's a silicone diaphragm in the backflow protector that completely blocks the tubing from breastmilk. All Spectra breast pumps are closed system. When buying a second hand pump, it can be common to find that parts were not replaced regularly, or shield kits were not used and assembled properly, and milk has found it's way into the pump casing which has resulted in mould and bacteria. Also pumps experience knocks and drops or were not stored well - so a second hand pump may not be really what you want. Tired mums can often forget to set up shield kits correctly, and pumps can be knocked around a fair bit... all something to keep in mind when buying a second hand pump.
Unless you have access to an autoclave, breast pump accessories like breastshields, valves etc can't be sterilised at home to a standard that ensures pathogen transmission is impossible, so you should still replace all of the accessories (tubing, backflow protector, breastshield, valves). These parts are pretty cheap and do need replacing periodically in any case.
Assess how well the pump motor is working
Sometimes people are warned that you should be careful about buying a second-hand breast pump because the pump motor may not be working as well and have lost suction strength. If you were pumping with a breast pump that had low suction and didn't realise it, then you could lose supply. We have not ever noticed this to happen with Spectra pumps. If you are using an older pump and have noticed loss of suction, it is far more likely to be an issue with the accessories, which should be replaced every 2-4 months of use. If you have access to the pump before you buy, listen to the pump and make sure the sound is smooth and regular. If you are worried about suction, you can buy a cheap vacuum gauge on eBay and test the suction yourself.
Is the warranty transferrable
At Spectra we will allow you to transfer warranty. Our pumps have a two year warranty on the pump motor (not the accessories). There must be a record of the original purchase through us or an authorised distributor. We will also provide customer service. If you're buying another brand, check the warranty situation. Being stuck without a warranty or access to customer service with a faulty pump is not fun.
Understand breast pumps and which pump is right for you
Even if you're trying to save some money by buying second-hand, choosing a pump that is not right for you or your situation is not going to be a good buy. Do some reading on breast pumps, how they work and which pump is best for your situation. Here are some good places to start:
You can always contact our customer service to run through options - click on the Chat button below and you'll go right through to Facebook messenger where you can have a chat.