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Open Vs Closed System Breast Pumps: What’s The Difference?

Open Vs Closed System Breast Pumps: What’s The Difference?

When looking to buy a breast pump so you can store breast milk for your little one for when you aren’t around, you’ll almost certainly have come across the terms open or closed system breast pump, but what do they actually mean?

Well, what differentiates the two types of breast pumps is the “milk barrier”, also known as overflow protection that can be found where the breast shield and the breast pump tubing connect with one another (sometimes it can also be between the tubing and the pump motor).

Closed system breast pumps have this while open system breast pumps don’t, it’s that simple.

While I’m a firm believer in the closed system breast pump given that my Spectra S1 has served me well for both my children, I can’t diminish the value of open system ones either.

Most pump manufacturers tend to use these labels as an excuse to hike the prices up while, in reality, their closed system electric pumps often end up being worse than the open system pumps.

That’s because these two terms are just something that have been made up. There’s no specific set of rules or parameters one can check to see if the pump is up to code or not.

Sure, overflow protection might be in place, but just how good is it?

While it’s useful to have a barrier that protects the tubing from getting any milk or moisture into it, some poorly designed ones tend to stifle milk flow as well, reducing the pump’s effectiveness.

That said, those are rare cases and the best closed system pumps don’t have this issue, which means they should last you a long time and you may even be able resell it later to someone who needs it.

And you won’t have to worry whether the milk was contaminated or not, though cleaning the tubing should still be a routine procedure, just in case.

Why Is An Open Pump System Less Preferred Than A Closed One?

Mom pumping and breastfeeding her baby at home

Honestly it depends on whether or not the pump is brand new or not. If the open pump system was entirely bad, it wouldn’t be on the market to begin with.

If it’s new then the pump itself is fine, though you’ll have to clean it more frequently than you would if you had a closed system breast pump in the first place.

This is due to the aforementioned mold risk.

While studies haven’t shown any potential dangers of this mold growth in the tubing, that doesn’t mean that we should be risking the lives of our kids over it.

Contaminated milk might still make your little one feel sick or carry some potentially nasty disease.

This goes doubly so if you’re expressing milk with a breast pump, be it an electric or a manual breast pump it doesn’t matter.

What does matter is that newborns and premature babies likely have a more vulnerable immune system, thus making the idea of giving bottles of potentially contaminated milk to the baby unthinkable.

Not only that, but if you’re done using your open system pump, it’s quite hard, if not nigh on impossible to sell a used open system breast pump second-hand, due to the potential risk of contamination that they might carry.

That said, they are often cheaper if budget is your concern. Just know that you might not be able to re-sell it later to earn back some of that money.

If you manage to sell a closed system one, you’re guaranteed to make more money. You can still sell it for pump parts, however – the non-contaminated ones at least.

What Are The Best Breast Pumps With Closed Systems?

Woman is pumping breast milk while sitting on a sofa

While the market for baby products, especially that of breast pumps, is massively oversaturated with subpar products, there are some that stand out from the crowd as the best of the best.

I’ve made a little list that shows the best closed system breast pumps from each popular brand so you’ll have an easier time browsing Amazon:

  • Lucina: Melodi One
  • Ameda: Platinum, Finesse, MYA Joy 
  • Hygeia: EnJoye
  • Bailey: Nurture III
  • Freemie: Equality, Freedom
  • Rumble Tuff: Serene Express Duo
  • Lansinoh: Signature Pro, Smartpump
  • Ardo: Calypso, Carum
  • Spectra: Dew 350, S1, S2, M1
  • Medela: Symphony, Lactina

Why I Chose The Spectra S1 For Myself

woman breast pumping

Each and every one of these should prove a satisfying purchase and I promise you that, whichever you choose, you won’t regret it.
That said, I’d personally recommend the Spectra S1 as that’s the one I’ve used myself.

It’s a hospital grade breast pump that’s both durable and reliable at the same time. Hospital-grade pumps are quite efficient when it comes to milk collection and they have potent sucking power.

It can function as both a single and a double electric breast pump depending on your needs and preferences at any given time.

Whether you want to breastfeed your child while draining the other breast or if you just want to be working, you’ll have your hands free to do whatever else you want to do.

This way you get to use your free time a lot better than you would with a manual breast pump or the like.

While it’s on, it has two modes – the letdown mode and the expression mode.

The first mode works quickly until you hit your letdown reflex, while the other tends to go a bit slower to help pull all the milk out of your breast.

The best thing about it is that it’s extremely quiet, meaning that you can go ahead with your pumping sessions even when your child is in the room with you without disturbing him or anyone else who’s around.

It even has a night light so you can use it as such when you’re not using the pump itself, providing some dim illumination that’s rather pleasing to look at.

But, the best part about the S1 is definitely its portability.

Thanks to the rechargeable battery pack housed within the breast pump, you’ll be free to stick it in your tote and go wherever you please while still having the freedom to pump some liquid gold if need be.

Do make sure to keep it charged though as it’ll be of no use to you other than as a glorified paper weight if the battery runs out.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Why should I use a breast pump?

Breast pump and baby bottles on wood background

Well, truth be told, you don’t have to. People have managed just fine without one for thousands of years.

The truth is, though, that it’s a bit more challenging to keep up and you’ll have to always be around the baby.

If you’re a working mom who needs to support her family, I’d suggest investing in an electric breast pump and start pumping as it will save you a lot of precious time and effort.

Breast pumps also help out with maintaining a constant milk supply without too many variations, though oversupply and a lack of supply of breast milk can still occur.

If you end up experiencing any of those issues, my suggestion is to speak to your doctor or your lactation consultant to see how you should go about dealing with this issue.

2. Is it okay to buy a used breast pump?

woman holding Manual Breast Pumps

Yes and no, depending on how well maintained the pump is in the first place.

While most pumps are going to end up being good, you should still inspect it to see if it works and that the pump mechanism isn’t missing some pieces.

You should also inspect the inside of the used breast pump to see if there’s any mold or moisture that has decided to take up residence inside the pump.

You don’t want to be working with a shoddy product, nor do you want to be scammed.

3. The pumps are too expensive. Is there a way to get one at a discount?

Mom holding breast pump

Why, yes there is!

Depending on the type of insurance you have, your insurance company can help you cover some, if not almost all of the cost of buying a new closed system breast pump.

​This way you’ll save some money that you can then use to purchase one of the other rather expensive pieces of baby gear required for your baby.

4. I’m not a fan of electric breast pumps, can I use a manual pump as an alternative?

Breast pump and baby bottle on the table

The answer, again, is yes, yes you can.

Nothing is stopping you from doing this, though you should know that you’ll have to deal with a lot of the operation in this case.

On the other hand, you get to set your own tempo more easily.

For manual breast pump recommendations, I’d say go for the Medela Freestyle since I know a lot of local moms who have nothing but good things to say about it.

Final Words

A closed system breast pump may be the best way of expressing and storing milk, but there are clearly other ways to go about it as well, much like with any other problem.

Open system one’s work just as well, as does the decision of mothers to pump exclusively instead of feeding too.

You just need to find what works best for both you and your child so you can both have some peace and quiet.

It may take a bit of trial and error to find which method suits you best, but don’t give up, you’ll figure it out in no time, mamma.


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