Monday, August 15, 2011

Breast is best, especially if you don't stress...

It looks like a bit of a ruckus was started over the entry: "Why you shouldn't buy, sell or borrow a secondhand Medela Swing Pump," posted on the Dispelling Breastfeeding Myths blog. The author took apart her Swing pump to show what looked like mold and dried milk inside. It is not the first blog entry of its kind that I have seen on the 'net. The blog entry was re-posted by well-intentioned women who run breastfeeding support sites and facebook pages. A lot of mothers were rightfully concerned. The majority of commenters said they wanted to stop using their Medela pumps.  There were also commenters who said Medela didn't care about anything but making money.

My comment on the facebook wall of The Leaky Boob was: "I think that post is overkill. My pump has been used in pumping for three babies over the course of 4 years. I honestly have never seen milk back up into the tubing (when I overflow, it goes onto my clothes). It's probably 'dirty' inside, anyway. I'm not going to freak out about the possiblity of particles blowing into my milk from inside the pump though. Me and my family are healthy and no one is immunocompromised. I just don't think it's worth getting that worked up about unless you are dealing with a sickly infant."  So far, over a dozen mothers have "liked" my comment, which is encouraging.

Despite my outward confidence, curiosity got the best of me.  Before I even had a chance to leave work for the day, I started to pull my breast pump apart. I just had to know...  Was there mold growing in my pump?  As stated in my comment above, my breast pump is over four years old and has been used to pump for three babies. I have a Medela Pump 'n Style. I couldn't find one on the Medela website for comparison, so I don't think they are made any longer. Still, for the benefit of any mothers out there who are still using one of these (and are quietly freaking out inside), I give you my photos:

A photo of the front casing of my pump with tubing and power cord attached.


This is what the back of the cover plate looks like on the other side. Those tiny little holes are the other side of where the tubes attach. The round white rubber piece covers the pump mechanism inside. It's not waterproof around the edges and probably isn't airtight either, but doesn't seem easily penetrable. I didn't clean anything before I took these pictures. If you click to enlarge them, you will see that there were some fibers there. It looked like fabric fiber or maybe some dust, but no dried milk and certainly not any mold.


This is what the inside looks like behind the membrane on the left side. Nothing nasty there...


And the other side. Still nothing scary.


But then I saw something black.

Oh no...
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But it's probably just some lubricant or something. This is a machine with moving parts, after all.

The point is... it wasn't mold.

Getting the pump back together was interesting.  I had to use one of those key-cards you get from the grocery store to help me squeeze the lip of the rubber cover back into the groove it came out of. That gave me further reassurance that things weren't going to be going into or out of my pump very easily.

video

Here's a video of my pump in action (without the faceplate on). The rolling action of the diaphragm is what creates the suction. I went ahead and tested it on myself too, just to be sure I hadn't ruined it. It still works.

So, that's my filthy dirty four year old Medela pump. It may not perform as well as it once did, but it still gets the job done.  It's no monster.  I hope that helps dispell the myth that all open-system pumps are unsafe for repeated use. I just don't think it's true.


9 comments:

  1. Maggie, thank you for taking the time to do this. I think it's great that you have had such a positive experience and no trouble with your open system pump. Hopefully some other moms will find the same thing, particularly since many are unlikely to be able to afford to replace their risky Medela pumps with quality safe pumps having already spent the money on Medela. I'm sure too Medela loves that you could give them such a great review, boosting their marketing for free.

    However, I'm really glad you shared that there is still reason for concern, at least in the beginning. This is your experience and your experience doesn't eradicate the findings of the CDC and even Medela themselves. They are aware that ALL of their open system pumps, including their PIS, have a rather high risk of developing mold. Any ethical company would discontinue production of a product that posed such a health risk to babies and their mothers. But this isn't the only way Medela has demonstrated their lack of ethics (for more on that check out this post: http://justwestofcrunchy.com/2011/01/19/the-problems-with-medela/) so it doesn't come as a surprise that they continue to ignore the pleas of IBCLCs and the warning from the CDC regarding their subpar pumps. The fact of the matter is they just don't care.

    Thank you for caring though and I hope that if you encourage others to consider Medela pumps you'll be sure to include the information regarding the potential risks associated with the pumps. It's only in sharing the full story that people can hope to make fully informed choices. Since you are now aware that others have experienced problems with Medela pumps you can be sure to offer a more balanced perspective instead of just glowing praise. By acknowledging the recognized problems you'll be a part of making sure every woman gets the information she deserves to know when making a decision.

    Thanks again!

    Jessica

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  2. very informative, educational post....

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  3. Hi Jessica, I really didn't mean to come across like I was offering free "glowing praise" to Medela. I really just wanted to show that all open-system pumps aren't necessarily unsafe for repeated use by a single user (or any use at all, as many said). As you know, Medela pumps are distributed by WIC and offered by most hospitals. Being a new mom is overwhelming even if it's not the first time around. If someone doesn't receive the best information and support from reliable sources, they are going to believe Medela has the best product out there. I am a registered nurse. I'm well educated and live above the poverty line and I had never even heard about Hygeia until a few weeks ago! My Pump in Style was sold to me at a hospital nursing store by a IBCLC. And what's probably even more insane is that before my third child, I didn't even realize a closed-system pump was available to buy. I thought multi-user/hospital grade pumps were only available as rentals. If I was failed this badly, what do you think is happening to other mothers? I would really like to see everyone receive the same level of information and support. Sadly, I just don't think that is happening for most of us. Anyway, I think you're doing a great job with your site. I would really like to see it (and other like it) reach farther. Our society has a much bigger problem with breastfeeding than our breast pumps. We could all use better understanding and support all-around.

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  4. I have to agree, better understanding and support is certainly needed and what I aim to do. Sharing that Medela is an unethical company and manufactures substandard products is not a personal attack on anyone (including myself as I have owned 3 Medela pumps) but rather sharing the information people need to know to make well informed choices. If we don't talk about it in order to spare someone potential guilt then why would Medela ever even bother changing? They will only change when enough of us call them out on these issues. Nobody should feel guilty or that they failed for using Medela, most people believe it's the "best" out there because of their aggressive marketing tactics. The only way anyone will know otherwise is if we tell them.

    Further, not all WICs give out Medela products. In fact, I know of several that distribute Hygeia or Ameda pumps, higher quality closed system pumps than Medela. Each WIC has the opportunity to have their own contracts with companies. Again, by raising awareness of these issues things can change.

    Medela is an unethical company, they are well aware of the risks of their open system pumps and if users are willing to pay the shipping and deal with the hassle of packing up their pumps, Medela even has a program to clean and replace moldy pumps. Why not just make a better product? Because it's better for their bottom line to make an inferior product and replace those that may notice the problems than to invest in a safer design.

    I remember when I bought my first PIS. I was so excited to finally own such a nice pump. Now I know that I didn't buy the best, I bought the best marketed. At the time I was doing the best I knew to do and I don't regret that at all. But now that I am more informed I can inform others and hopefully help some not take the same risk I did, unknowingly, on Medela. Sharing this information isn't any kind of judgment on anyone that uses Medela, just on Medela the company. Personally, I feel Medela should do a recall and replace all these pumps. Companies have recalled for less risk.

    Thank you too for what you do too and I'm really glad your pump looks great. I'm sure it did encourage some that can't afford to replace their pumps. You've highlighted an important fact that it isn't a guarantee that all their pumps will have mold, just a risk. There are other problems with breastfeeding today than our breast pumps but I would hesitate to say they are bigger, at least to the mom with a sick baby and a moldy pump.

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  5. I think I'm still feeling a bit of shock and sadness at finding that I have been misinformed for a long time. These past few days have been very eye-opening for me. I don't know that I would have ever questioned the safety or efficiency of my pump if you hadn't put that link up, so thank you. You're right in saying that sharing information with people is more important than sparing their feelings. It is unfortunate for the women who can't afford to replace their pumps (and I really really feel for them). I just wish this didn't have to be an issue at all. All mothers should have access to the best information and best practice always. Keep pushing... you're reaching a lot of people. :) Thanks again, Maggie

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  6. My family owns a maternity store and face the problem of moldy Medela pump in styles every week. I'll try to get a picture posted, but we've opened up the faceplace of dozens of Pump in Styles that are absolutely COVERED in mold. It doesn't happen to everyone, but it's definitely a documented issue that's very known by lactation consultants.

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  7. I have a 10 year old PIS in one of the over the shoulder bags that I am just dying to tear apart now. It's fed nearly 8 kids in that timeframe... I'm very curious myself what's in it...

    I'm also curious what's in my other 3 by Medela - PIS, Advanced and Freestyle... All bought within the past 2 years and only used with one child.

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  8. Ok, so I couldn't sleep and decided to dismantle my old PIS...

    http://momwithtools.blogspot.com/2011/08/pump-in-style-disassembly.html

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  9. Hi Shayla! Believe me, I understand the curiosity (obviously, since I DID tear my PIS apart!). My pump didn't show any obvious problems, but I think about mold now everytime I see the inside of my tubes fog up during pumping. It never gets all the way too the pump, but I can't help but think of the moisture. Ack! I wish I could get a brand-new Hygeia pump, but I just don't think that's feasible for me. My baby is already 7 months and eating solids and I have no plan to have anymore. I guess I will just have to watch this pump carefully for however much longer I am using it.

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