Used Breast Pumps, Leftover Formula. Advice from Babble’s Parental Advisory, by the “From the Hips” experts.

Can leftover formula or milk from a feeding be refrigerated? If so, for how long? I keep reading that you need to throw it out because germs from the baby’s mouth get into the bottle, but seriously, how germy is a baby’s mouth? This must be a conspiracy to get me to buy more formula, right? Related: Do I have to buy a new breast pump? The AAP and all the pump makers (of course) say you need to buy new ones. But the used ones on eBay are so much cheaper, and I figure I’ll replace all the plastic parts so where’s the harm? – Paranoid or Frugal

Dear Paranoid or Frugal,

Just because babies don’t have dull yellowed teeth and halitosis doesn’t mean their mouths are clean. Germs are all over the place. And warm bottles are lovely places for bacteria to settle and breed. Breast milk can supposedly be re-refrigerated and saved for the next feeding, due to the milk’s antibacterial properties, but the official formula safety protocol is to toss leftovers. Maybe this recommendation is alarmist and/or a conspiracy to keep you spending money. But we wonder, is it worth those dregs of leftover formula to find out? What exactly would you be saving? A few minutes, a few bucks? You can always decant refrigerated formula in smaller quantities so there’s less likelihood of having to pour some down the drain, and you can carry small packages of dry formula along for as-needed mixing.

On to the pump. Where does that anti-share mandate come from? A scheme to sell more parts and pumps? General squeamishness about bodily fluids? A legit concern about spreading bacteria? Probably all of the above. We have to confess that we personally shared pumps on numerous occasions. In fact, much of the breastfeeding section of our book was written while one of us pumped from the hospital-grade machine sitting next to the computer. We used our own plastic parts and flippy doo-dads, but the machine itself was there for whomever needed it. We figured the hospital loaned it out, why couldn’t we? But that was our choice based on our comfort level. Would you borrow a pair of clean underwear from a friend? Probably. Would you buy some on eBay? Maybe not. There’s no reason not to from a hygiene POV, but you may feel skeezed at the thought.

Though there’s no guarantee (who knows what people do with their stuff), an eBay machine is unlikely to carry germs – the pump itself is no more than a motor. You would need to get your own parts, including your own tubes – the skinny ones that are used for air suction. The milk doesn’t actually touch these tubes unless you happen to overflow a bottle without noticing (if you asked a hundred pumping women whether this has ever happened to them, at least ninety-nine would laugh). One strike against the eBay purchase is that pumps do fall apart. Like a used car, the used pump’s lifespan depends on the previous owner’s care of the machine: how frequently it was used and whether or not it was dragged from place to place, banging against desk legs and subway floors. Your needs play into the decision, too. If you’re planning to pump three times a day for a year, or for two kids, you may want to splurge on a new one. But if you’re looking for a lightly-used, high-quality pump for moderate use, and you’re willing to live with a bit of theoretical uncertainty (i.e., no one can tell you for absolute 100% officially sanctioned sure that it’s safe), feel free to put in a bid.

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Article Posted 9 years Ago

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