By Cara Terreri, CD(DONA), LCCE
If you are a childbirth educator, doula, lactation consultant, midwife or doctor who works with expectant families, one of the topics you may be discussing with them as their birth day draws near is the acquisition of a breast pump. You may make suggestions on which pump will best suit their needs, let them know that breast pumps are considered durable medical equipment under the Affordable Care Act and are provided at no charge to them, and even provide instruction on how and when to use it, along with information on breast milk storage. Do you realize that you can also provide information on what to do with that breast pump when it is no longer needed in the family? There are several programs that offer breast pump recycling programs and families and the environment will benefit if they were utilized more. Cara Terreri, Community Manager for Lamaze International’s Giving Birth With Confidence blog shares information that you can pass on to parents, helping them to keep breast pumps out of the landfills and support recycling efforts. – Sharon Muza, Community Manager, Science & Sensibility
Breast pumps are an expensive — and important — piece of equipment for many breastfeeding parents. But what happens when families aree done with their breast pump — like not going to have more children done? Do they sell it? Donate it? Recycle it? Trash it? Let’s take a look at the options.
Selling A Used Breast Pump
Families may have spent significant money on their high quality double electric pump — it would be nice to see some of that money back in their pocket! Be aware that many breast pumps are designed as “single use” pumps, which means that they are not created to be safely used by another person. The reason is, these pumps use what is known as an “open system,” which means that there is not a barrier to stop milk (even tiny particles) or moisture from traveling up into the pump’s motor. There is no way to fully clean or sterilize these kinds of pumps — even if the pump’s new owner purchases new tubing and plastic parts. The good news is that many, many breast pump brands sell pumps with closed systems. That said, even a closed system pump can be problematic when passing along to someone else. The motor can be weak, which affects the pump’s ability to operate as it should, causing less suction. A weak pump can impact a breastfeeding parent’s milk supply! If a parent does consider selling their pump, be sure to let the new user know that it’s used and for how long. Many lactation consultants will test a pump’s suction for free, which is something that can be done before selling.
Donating A Used Breast Pump
When considering donating used breast pump, all of the information above applies. Families can donate a used pump directly to another family, or seek out an organization that will give it to a parent in need. Be forewarned, however, that many non-profit organizations will not be able to accept a used pump due to liability and health concerns, even if it is a closed system pump. A parent’s best bet is to connect with other families in their community, or perhaps a charity or community organization, to find a family in need.
Recycling A Used Breast Pump
Good news! There are now two pump manufacturers who offer recycling. Medela developed the Medela Recycles program, which allows families to ship their electric Medela pump for free back to the company, where they will then break down the pump and recycle all components appropriately. With each recycled pump Medela receives, they support the donation of new hospital-grade, multi-use breastpumps and supplies to Ronald McDonald House Charities® (RMHC®). This helps provide parents with high quality pumps hospital during their stay at a Ronald McDonald House, which helps ease the transition for families caring for a baby in the NICU. The recycled pumps are not re-used or re-sold in any way.
Hygeia, who promotes “No Pumps in Dumps™,” also offers a pump recycling program. Depending on the pump’s age and model, Hygeia may refurbish the pump and provide it to a mom in need (or work with an agency to do so), or if a pump can’t be refurbished, they will recycle it appropriately. Hygeia also recycles pump parts replaced when servicing customers’ pumps. Hygeia’s pumps are a closed system designed to be used by multiple families when each breastfeeding parent has their own “Personal Accessory Kit.”
If a family owns a pump made by one of the many other manufacturers, families should contact them directly to find out if they offer a way to recycle their pump. If not, recycle the pump’s plastic pieces appropriately and then take the electronic components to a facility or business that recycles electronics. Often communities and municipalities hold recycling events where community members and drop off electronics to be recycled for free. Families should monitor local news sources for upcoming recycling opportunities.
Throwing Away A Used Breast Pump
With the many safe and eco-friendly options available for getting rid of used breast pump, families don’t have to throw it away! And really, they shouldn’t — with the amount of garbage in our landfills, trashing a recyclable breast pump is not a good option.