Just the word makes me slump and sigh.  I started pumping when I was still in the hospital after my daughter’s birth.  After a 30.5 hour labor which ended in a Cesarian birth, due to my baby being turned funny (Back Labor), despite my best efforts at a natural birth and no bottles, she did receive formula for her first feeding, due to my surgery and a few hours in recovery.  After that, I had my mom and “Auntie Dana” to help put the baby on my breast to nurse.  She would nurse, but, prior to my milk coming in, she wasn’t getting much.  Nurses were concerned about my baby’s weight loss and a lactation consultant encouraged me to pump and use a supplemental nursing system (SNS), a tiny feeding tube which attaches to nipple or finger to feed the baby my breast milk.   Fortunately, I was at a certified “Baby Friendly” Kaiser, so they were really good about not pushing formula.  No one even said the F-word to me, with the exception of notifying me that giving formula would be necessary immediately after my baby was delivered, due to low blood sugar.

So I pumped using the hospital grade Medela pump and watched every drop as it dripped into the bottle.  We would cheer for every half-ounce.  Then, after the third day of pumping, my milk came in.  Wow, was there a lot!   I would breastfeed her first and then feed with the SNS on my finger(she would not take it attached to the nipple, but a finger is the closest feeling thing to a nipple).

When we got home, I continued to pump on a nice Medela Pump In Style Breastpump which my friend had given me after she had finished nursing her 2 children.  It was great.  She had not used it in over a year and it was easy to follow the instructions to clean the tubing and all of the parts.  I got lucky, with a nice, free pump, which is still in perfect working order.  I’m glad I didn’t have to pay $279 for a new one.  Yet, when I took a break from pumping for a few weeks, because my baby wasn’t taking to the bottle, and went back to pumping, suddenly I couldn’t get much more than 3 ounces after 45 minutes of pumping.  I started reading pump reviews and decided to try a Dr. Brown pump and then a Whittlestone.  While these were also great pumps, I didn’t do any better with them and realized the problem was not the pump, but my breasts no longer being used to pumping.  Even after a 3 weeks of sticking with it, my results were not any better and I came to the conclusion that, for me, at that point, the best pump would be my baby.

Nevertheless, twice, I was able to successfully purchase an awesome pump–used–and save a whole lot of money.  So here are my tips for finding a used breast pump and increasing the likelihood that it will work well for as long as you need it:

First of all, most pumps available to consumers are considered “single user pumps.”  Hospital grade pumps are made for multiple users because of the way the suction either can not or might potentially allow one users milk to come into contact with the motorized portion of the pump.  Medela, for example, makes a hospital grade pump, the Lactina, which is made for multiple users without contamination.  Their other pumps are made to be for a single user.   I’ve read notes of caution about using another mother’s pump and the suggestion about replacing all tubing, cups, valves, etc., prior to using a pump previously used by someone else.  I did not do this, as I felt safe that no contaminants would be present from my friends milk or breasts after a year of non-use and felt confident in my ability to properly clean my gently used pumps.

Okay.  If purchasing a pump on Craigslist, be sure to plug it in and try it out–not on your breast, but on a fleshy part of your body.  For most women, our tummy is a good bet.  You want to see the cup make contact well enough to create a suction and then you can see the surface of your tummy being sucked and released.  For some women, the upper part of your chest, just below your collar bone (the part you would see when wearing a tank top) may work, too.  Be sure you try each setting.  If you are not familiar with pumps, ask the seller to show you how to set it up and confirm that all the necessary parts are there.  If possible, bring a friend along, who knows breastpumps.  On Craigslist, though you will see people selling pumps for over $100, you can find even better deals and it should not take too long to find a good pump for around $60-$75.

Ebay is also a great source for used pumps, but be sure to check the seller’s feedback.  If you read their feedback and see more than one comment about an item they’ve sold arriving not as described or not in working order, find another seller.  There are a ton!  With Ebay, you will not get to try the pump out.  You have to go on the seller’s word about its condition.  The great thing is that Ebay automatically protects your purchase and, if the item is described as working and arrives non-working or described as “practically new” and arrives gross, dirty and cracked, you can easily open a claim with Ebay that the item was “not as described” and Ebay will look into it and refund your money, if the seller refuses to work with you.   Both pumps I purchased were from Ebay sellers and I had no problems.  When I did have a different item arrive broken, and the seller didn’t respond to my email, Ebay refunded my within a few days.  Look for items that have at least one good photo and a detailed and specific description.  Don’t forget to factor in shipping cost.  Sellers will charge anywhere from $14-$25 or more for shipping.  A seller asking for much over $25 for USPS parcel post either miscalculated or is just plain over-charging.  I’ve seen sellers charge nearly $40 to ship a pump USPS parcel post!  So watch for shipping charge when you consider your maximum bid.  For ebay, placing your bid as close to the end of the auction as possible will help keep your cost down, as well.  Be sure you know what you want(manual or electric, single or double, style or model, etc) and be sure you know precisely what the auction is for, as an auction may be selling the pump motor, only or just the accessories.  Be sure to contact the seller prior to bidding to clarify anything that is not specifically stated in the auction.

Good luck with your buying and your pumping!  🙂

In my next post, you can look forward to breast feeding, what no on told me…