How often should you replace your pump parts?
Breastfeeding is a wonderfully fulfilling experience filled with tender moments between mother and baby. But let’s be real, mommas— it’s not always easy. From engorgement to cracked nipples, to the unavoidable leaky situation, it’s important for us to have all the tools and tricks in our breastfeeding toolboxes.
One of those tools is a breast pump. Breastfeeding moms who choose to pump their milk know that a good pump is a game-changer. However, with that comes the responsibility of keeping the pump clean and well-maintained.
Which begs the question, how often should breastfeeding pump parts be replaced? Today, my lactating lovelies, we’re going to dive into the topic of breast pump part maintenance.
Let’s go over some basics….
It's important to understand that not all pump parts need to be replaced at the same time- some parts require more frequent replacement than other. Additionally moms who are exclusive pumpers or pumping M-F when at work will need to replace pump parts more frequently than a mom is pumping only occasionally.
Quick note: not all pumps are designed the same or have the same parts. Read through your pump manual to have a better understanding of your pump parts.
Valves & Membranes
The most commonly replaced parts are the valves and membranes. These two parts are responsible for creating the suction that extracts milk from the breast. Over time, the membranes can lose their elasticity or tear, while the valves can become worn or dirty.
As a result, you may notice that your suction is weaker than usual or that you're not expressing milk as effectively as before. There is a wide range on when to replace valves and membranes which is highly dependent on how often you are using your pump. There is a range between 2 weeks - 3 months depending on the pump and use. Many pump manufacturers draw the line at 4 or more pumps per day for “exclusive pumping.” Read on for more specific timelines on replacement.
Next up, the breast flanges/shields are another important part of your pump that may require replacement. Proper fit can make a HUGE difference to ensure proper suction and milk removal. Breast flanges come in different sizes to accommodate different breast shapes and sizes. If the flange doesn't fit snugly or comfortably, it is time to get a new one. A note about discoloration: frequent sterilization may cause discoloration. If you still have good suction and a good fit, discoloration on its own does not necessarily indicate you need to replace your shields/inserts. Additionally, if you have cracked, sore, or bleeding nipples, you may want to consider trying a different size of the flange, as an ill-fitting flange could be contributing to or causing the issue.
Check out our guide on nipple shape and size, here.
The tubing, which connects the breast shield to the main unit of the pump, also requires attention. It should also be replaced if it becomes dirty or cloudy or if there's mold inside it. Moisture and condensation can accumulate in the tubing after frequent use, which can affect the suction of the pump. Depending on your pump, you may need to replace the tubing every 3-6 months, or immediately if moisture or mold is visible.
What if I rent a pump?
If you’re using a rental pump or have received a used pump from a friend or family member, it’s best to replace all parts before use. Even if the parts look clean, you never know how they’ve been stored or cleaned in the past. And always have your own collection kits such as your own tubing and bottle so there will be less chance for contamination and more chance for you to have an effective suction.
The Quick Breakdown
Another reminder that not all pumps include these parts. There are many different types of pumps. Going through your pump's manual can help you navigate whether your pump includes all of these parts. This is a general guide. Read on for more specific pump information for some of the top pumps I see mamas using.
Valve Membrane: 2-8 weeks to 3 months
Duckbill Valve: 1-4 months
Backflow Protectors: 3-6 months
Breast flanges: 6 months
Tubing: as needed, immediately if you notice moisture/mold
Breakdown by Pump
Pumpables: If you have been around my channel or are in boob school, you know I love a pumpables pump. The genie advanced is a whole jam and I recommend this pump often! Let’s go over the recommendation from their site on when to replace parts. Please note, the number of times you pump per day impacts when you need to replace parts. Their cut-off number is 4 pumps per day, so 4 or more pumps per day and you are going to be replacing pump parts more frequently than if you only pump 1-3 times per day. Also, frequent sterilization of your parts will also require more frequent replacement even if you are not pumping 4 or more times per day.
- Valves/Liquid inserts: 2 weeks (exclusive pumping), 2-3 months (1-3 pumps per day)
- Valve Membranes: 2-4 weeks (exclusive pumping), 8 weeks (1-3 pumps per day)
- Backflow Protector: 1 month (exclusive pumping), 3-4 months (1-3 pumps per day)
- Breast shield/assembly: 6 months (exclusive pumping), may not be necessary with less frequent pumping (1-3 times per day)
- Tubing: when/if you ever notice moisture (backflow protector should prevent this) but if you ever notice moisture, you need to replace your tubing.
Spectra: Spectra is a pump many moms can get for free through their insurance. It can be a great choice for a primary pump, particularly if you have insurance and purchasing a separate pump isn’t an option. The cut-off number for exclusive pumping or frequent pumping and the need to more frequently replace parts is 4 or more pumps per day. Here are their guidelines for when to replace parts.
- Valve Membrane: 2-4 weeks (exclusive pumping), 2-3 months (1-3 pumps per day)
- Duck Valve: 2 months (exclusive pumping), 3 months (1-3 pumps per day)
- Backflow Protector: 3 months (exclusive pumping), 6 months (1-3 times per day)
- Tubing: when/if you ever notice moisture-backflow protector should prevent this, but if you ever notice moisture, you need to replace your tubing.
- Breastshield: 6 months (exclusive pumping), may not be necessary with less frequent pumping (1-3 times per day)
Elvie: Many mamas will see the Elvie pumps and think, “oh hell ya.” However, it is important to note that this is not meant to be a primary pump. What do I mean by that? If you are trying to build your supply in the early days or are exclusively pumping full-time, it may not build or sustain your supply if you aren’t using another pump as well. These pumps also have a sharp learning curve on use and fit. I recommend joining the facebook group Wearable Pump Papwerweight Prevention which is moderated by Jessica Anderson IBCLC of Genunine Lactation an expert in wearable pumps.
- Valve membranes: 2-4 weeks
- Disc membrane: 2-3 months
- Washable parts: flange inserts and bottles may require replacement with frequent sterilization
We know that as a breastfeeding mom, you have a million things on your mind. And though it may seem like an added stressor, staying on top of your pump part maintenance can save you time, money, and a whole lot of frustration in the long run. Remember the key parts of your breast pump that should be replaced regularly, keep up on your cleaning routine, and if in doubt, just go ahead and replace any parts that look worn or damaged.
LIFE HACK It can be helpful to add recurring “subscribe and save” shipments from Amazon for your pump parts at the suggested replacement intervals.
Looking for more help and guidance from first the first latch to the last? I designed my breastfeeding program, boob school, to give you all the education you need to meet your breastfeeding goals with confidence. I also know that breastfeeding comes with a lot of unknowns so we offer live support in our private Facebook community and weekly calls. I promise you it's not the “stuff” that makes your breastfeeding journey. It is having access to the RIGHT education and support to navigate every bump along the way.
Cheering you on, always!
Boob School Founder and CEO
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