There are two kinds of breast pumps – open system and closed system. Is one better than the other, and which is best for you? Here’s what you need to know.
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What is the difference between an open system pump and a closed system pump?
A closed system pump has a barrier between the pump parts (breast shield, connector, valve, and bottle) and the tubing. This barrier prevents breast milk and moisture from the pump from reaching the motor.
Many pumps (including the Spectra S1 and S2, Baby Buddha, and many others) do this through a separate pump part called a backflow protector. Here is what that looks like on a Motif Luna:
Other closed system pumps (such as the Medela Freestyle Flex) may have a small barrier built into the connector.
Open system breast pumps have no barrier between the pump parts and the tubing, meaning that breast milk may potentially get into the tubing and by extension, the motor.
This means that open systems pump cannot be sterilized to be used safely by another person, because the motor cannot be cleaned.
With a closed system pump, milk or moisture should never get in the tubing. If it does, the tubing may need to be replaced.
Is open system or closed system better?
All other things being equal between two breast pumps, I would say that a pump being closed system would be a slight advantage over an open system pump.
Pros to Closed System
- More hygienic/no milk in the tubing
- Pump can be given away/sold when you’re done with it
Cons to Closed System
- Depending on the design of your pump, the backflow protector may be an extra part to wash
Is it safe to use someone else’s breast pump?
With a closed system pump, it is safe to use someone else’s breast pump as long as all users have their own sets of pump parts.
Having said that, most breast pump manufacturers will designate their pumps as “multiple user” or “single user” (or “personal pump”). If you have a single user pump, the warranty will usually only cover the original owner.
Which breast pumps are open and which are closed?
Below is a list of breast pumps and whether they are open system or closed system.
- Spectra S1/S2: Closed
- Spectra S9: Closed
- Medela Freestyle Flex: Closed
- Medela Freestyle: Open
- Medela Pump in Style (Older Model): Open
- Medela Pump in Style (New Model): Closed
- Freemie Independence: Closed
- Freemie Liberty: Closed
- Medela Sonata: Closed
- Medela Swing Maxi: Closed
- Baby Buddha: Closed
- BellaBaby: Closed
- Motif Luna: Closed
- Motif Duo: Closed
- Motif Twist: Closed
- Willow: Closed
- Elvie: Closed
- Ameda Mya: Closed
- Lansinoh Smartpump: Closed
Do you need a new breast pump for a second baby?
If you can get one, I would, since it’s unlikely your older pump will still be covered by its warranty (and you may qualify for a new pump free through your insurance with your new pregnancy).
However, if your insurance won’t cover another pump or if you can’t afford one, you can continue to use your breast pump with a second baby as long as it works well. (I used one Medela Freestyle as my main pump for three babies.)
It can also be a good idea to keep your older breast pump around to use as a backup pump or to leave at work.
Ready to get your pump? Check out what you qualify for here!
Hopefully this gives you a good overview on open vs closed system breast pumps! Let me know in the comments if you have any questions.
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