Open System Vs. Closed System Breast Pumps: What You Need To Know

By Cindy Puppos | November 12, 2018

Choosing the right breast pump for you and your baby can be a daunting process, especially considering all the other choices you have to make before baby arrives. There are so many breast pump options to choose from, each with various bells and whistles.

When selecting the best breast pump for you, one of the first things you will need to consider is if you want an open system breast pump or a closed system breast pump.

Read on to learn what these terms mean for you and your baby!

pregnant woman with tablet

What is the difference between the closed system and open system breast pump?

A closed system pump has a barrier between your breast milk and the pump. With this barrier, no milk or other fluids can ever get into the pump, which prevents any kind of contamination between the pump and the milk. The barrier prevents your breast milk from leaking into the pump, ensuring it travels through a completely sanitary system.

An open system pump has no barrier. If milk gets into the tubing, care needs to be taken to clean the tubing and ensure that it is completely dried out before using the pump again. While risks of milk contamination are extremely small, if milk is inadvertently left inside the tubing, mold can grow and ultimately transfer to the motor of your breast pump, which cannot be cleaned. It’s one reasons why it’s not recommended to borrow or buy a used breast pump!

breast pump parts

Are all “closed” systems the same?

The terms closed system and open system are not regulated, and manufacturers may use these terms differently. For example, Medela uses the term “overflow protection” instead of “closed system.”

Please also bear in mind that there is no true closed breast pump system. All systems must allow air to travel through the system in order for the pump to work properly. More specifically, the hole that allows airflow is located on the adapter - but it does not allow moisture into your tubing.

Is one better for me and my baby?

While it may seem that the safest choice is a closed system pump, you should note that there are have been no documented cases of a baby becoming sick from contamination from a breast pump. However, the likelihood of contamination also has not been studied.

Yes, You Have to Clean Both Types of Breast Pumps.

No matter which you choose -- an open or closed system -- cleaning is extremely important. Most cases of mold or bacteria growth in either type of pump are caused by inadequate cleaning.

The main difference between a closed system pump and an open system is that you will need to regularly clean your tubing if you opt for an open system pump. We encourage all breast pump users to read your manufacturer's guidelines to best care for your pump.

breast pump parts

Getting Comfy

One of the major benefits of a closed system pump (outside of not having to clean the tubing) is that you can pump in the most comfortable position for you. Reclining during your pumping session with a closes system pump will not cause your milk to leak into the tubing. Hello night-time pumping sessions!

breast shield or flange

Still have questions? The 1 Natural Way team is excited to help you choose the breast pump that is right for you and your baby. What’s the first step? Glad you asked! Simply fill out our Breast Pump Qualification Form, and you will hear from us within 24 hours to determine if your insurance will provide a breast pump at no cost to you!

Cindy Puppos

About the Author

Cindy Puppos is 1 Natural Way's Customer Service Manager, so she has a good idea of all the different and wonderful questions that moms have for her team. Thankfully, as the mother of two boys (who are now grown!) and a veteran of the company and breastfeeding, Cindy is always knowledgeable about breastfeeding, pumping and all the latest and greatest pumps!

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