Open Systems vs. Closed Systems

the difference

Is there really a big difference between a closed system pump and an open system pump? This is a question that many mothers ask when trying to select the best breast pump for their needs. Since we are often asked this question, we’ve outlined the main differences between an open system breast pump and a closed system breast pump.

Open Systems

Pump collection system is open to pump tubing and motor, which means that during normal use milk particles can enter into parts of the pump that cannot be cleaned. Most often small milk particles enter the pump tubing and go unnoticed until the mold begins to grow in the tubing.

When mold develops in the pump tubing, your expressed milk is at risk for contamination since the pump’s vacuum has drawn air through the moldy tubing and into the pump motor. This leads to the possibility of mold growing in the pump motor and consequently the recontamination of the tubing.

The protocol for keeping open system pump tubing clean includes thoroughly washing and drying the pump tubing. To effectively dry the tubes prior to the next use they can be attached to the pump motor while it is running for a few minutes or a small amount of isopropyl alcohol can be poured into the tubes to speed up drying time. Please keep in mind that when using alcohol to dry tubing that the vapors can be drawn into your collected milk.

If mold has developed in the tubes, they should be sterilized by boiling or replaced. Pump tubing can become opaque after repeated boiling, which can make it difficult to see milk or mold in the tubes.

When an open system is used your collected milk is exposed to the outside air that is pulled through the pump’s tubing. As your milk is exposed to air it is being exposed to any contaminates that may be present in the air such as smoke, dust, pet dander, airborne bacteria and viruses.

Closed Systems

A closed collection system has a barrier in between the pump tubing and the breast shield, which prevents outside air from reaching your expressed milk. This helps to safeguard your milk’s purity so that it is as pure as possible from breast to collection and finally to your baby.

The possibility of milk leaking into the pump tubing is eliminated when a closed system is used which cuts down on cleaning time since the tubing never needs to be washed.

The closed system concept was first used for hospital grade pumps that were to be used by multiple mothers. Since the pumps would be used by more than one user a barrier in between the collection and the pump motor was needed to ensure that the pump would not be contaminated by bacteria or viruses from the mother’s system. Although many personal use breast pumps are now designed as closed systems they are not intended for multiple users unless stipulated by the manufacturer.

To find the pump that will best meet your milk expression needs, check out the articles under Finding the Right Pump.

Return to: Finding the Perfect Breast Pump

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