Are Electric Breast Pumps Safe?

As a new mom, you want nothing but the best for your little one, and that includes providing them with the nourishment and comfort of breastmilk. However, with the demands of modern life, exclusive breastfeeding can be challenging. Enter electric breast pumps – handy devices that allow you to express and store milk for your baby when you’re away. But amidst the convenience, you may have some concerns about their safety.

We will dive into the world of electric breast pumps through this guide by addressing common queries, potential risks, and tips for safe and effective use. From understanding how they work to exploring their impact on breast health, we’ve got you covered.

So, let’s board on this journey together and empower you with the knowledge to make informed choices for you and your little one.

How Electric Breast Pumps Work

Electric breast pumps work by mimicking a baby’s natural sucking motion, using a combination of suction and cyclical patterns to extract milk from the breast. The pump consists of a motor, a collection container or bottle, and a breast shield or funnel that fits over the nipple and areola area. When turned on, the pump creates a gentle suction that stimulates the milk ejection reflex, allowing the milk to flow from the breast into the collection container.

Are Electric Breast Pumps Safe to Use?

While electric breast pumps are generally considered safe when used correctly, mothers should be aware of some potential risks and concerns.

A recent study investigated how pumping supplies can affect the microbiome of pumped human milk. It found that using personal pumping supplies resulted in higher levels of certain bacteria in pumped milk than using sterile supplies, suggesting that pumping supplies can alter the milk microbiome.

However, further research is still needed to understand the implications for infant health. These findings highlight the importance of following proper hygiene and sterilization protocols for breast pump equipment to maintain the quality and safety of expressed breast milk.

Here are some other aspects to consider while using an electric breast pump:

Hygiene and Cleaning

Improper cleaning and sterilization of breast pump parts can lead to the growth of harmful bacteria, increasing the risk of breast infections or contamination of the expressed milk. It’s crucial to follow the manufacturer’s instructions for thorough cleaning and sanitizing of all pump components after each use.

A study by the Healthcare Infection Society and the Infection Prevention Society aimed to provide best practice guidance for the decontamination of breast pump milk collection kits and related items used in infant feeding, both in home and hospital settings. The key recommendations from this study include:

  • Breast pump milk collection kits should be sterilized before being reused by different mothers.
  • For the same mother, washing, rinsing, and drying after each use is sufficient if done correctly.
  • Additional decontamination measures may be necessary based on local risk assessments and professional advice.
  • Items like bottle brushes, breast/nipple shields, and dummies should be used by one mother only and decontaminated accordingly.

Electrical Safety

As with any electrical device, there is a risk of electrical shock or fire if the pump is damaged or used improperly. Always inspect the pump and its components for any signs of damage, such as frayed cords or cracks in the casing. It’s crucial to use only the power cord and adapter provided by the manufacturer to ensure compatibility and safety. Additionally, avoid using the pump near water or in humid environments to minimize the risk of electrical hazards.

Overuse or Misuse

Excessive or improper use of an electric breast pump can lead to breast pain, nipple soreness, or damage to breast tissue. It’s essential to follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for pump suction levels, duration, and frequency of use. Avoid prolonged pumping sessions without breaks to prevent overstimulation of the breast tissue, which can result in discomfort or injury. If you experience any pain or discomfort while pumping, stop immediately and consult a lactation consultant or healthcare provider for guidance.

Some Major Concerns of Breast Pumping Mothers

Can Electric Breast Pumps Cause Mastitis?

Mastitis, a painful breast infection that can occur in breastfeeding mothers, is a common concern when using electric breast pumps. While there has been a traditional belief that breast pumps may increase the risk of mastitis by promoting milk stasis (a buildup of milk in the breast), emerging research suggests a more nuanced relationship.


A study recently published in 2022 aimed to evaluate the role of breast pumps in the development and management of mastitis. The researchers highlighted that milk stasis is a key factor in the pathophysiology of mastitis, and breast pumps can serve as a complementary strategy for conservative management of the condition.

In cases where the infant’s positioning and attachment during breastfeeding lead to inefficient breast drainage, using a breast pump can facilitate milk removal and help prevent or alleviate milk stasis. Additionally, the study noted that hand expression and breast pumps could be beneficial in speeding the resolution of mastitis-related issues, such as extreme nipple pain.

Interestingly, the study observed a decreasing incidence density of mastitis throughout lactation, despite consistent breast pump usage. This suggests that breast pumps may not be as strongly linked to the development of mastitis as previously thought.

While breast pumps have traditionally been associated with an increased risk of mastitis, the study suggests that their role in the pathophysiology of the condition may be more complex. When used correctly and in conjunction with professional guidance, breast pumps can be a valuable tool in managing and potentially preventing mastitis in breastfeeding mothers, particularly in situations where direct breastfeeding is not feasible or inefficient.

Can Electric Breast Pumps Cause Cancer?

One of the common concerns among breastfeeding mothers is whether the use of electric breast pumps can increase the risk of developing breast cancer. However, current scientific evidence does not support a direct link between the use of electric breast pumps and an increased risk of breast cancer.

In fact, several studies have suggested that breastfeeding itself may have a protective effect against breast cancer. A meta-analysis published analyzed and found that exclusive breastfeeding among parous women (women who have given birth) was associated with a lower risk of breast cancer compared to parous women who had never breastfed.

Another study published in 2017 explored the relationship between breastfeeding duration and breast cancer risk. The researchers found that for every 12 months of breastfeeding, there was a 4.3% reduction in the risk of developing breast cancer, in addition to a 7.0% decrease in risk observed for each birth.

Importantly, the study also highlighted that breastfeeding primarily reduces the risk of Triple-Negative Breast Cancer (an aggressive subtype) by 20% and in carriers of BRCA1 mutations (a genetic risk factor for breast cancer) by 22-50%. This suggests that breastfeeding may offer particularly significant benefits for women with a higher genetic risk of developing breast cancer.

While these studies do not specifically address electric breast pumps, they provide compelling evidence that breastfeeding itself has a protective effect against breast cancer. Electric breast pumps are simply tools that facilitate the expression and storage of breast milk, allowing mothers to continue breastfeeding even when they are separated from their babies.

It is important to note that the risk factors for breast cancer are complex and multifactorial, involving genetic predisposition, environmental factors, and lifestyle choices. There is no scientific evidence to suggest that the proper use of electric breast pumps, in and of itself, increases the risk of developing breast cancer.

Do Electric Breast Pumps Cause Sagging?

Addressing the concern of whether electric breast pumps contribute to breast sagging, it’s crucial to understand the factors influencing breast shape and appearance. Breast sagging, medically known as ptosis, can result from various factors such as pregnancy, breastfeeding, age, and genetics. While the suction from breast pumps may temporarily stretch breast tissue during pumping sessions, there’s no direct evidence linking electric breast pumps to long-term sagging effects.


Research suggests that breast sagging is more closely associated with physiological changes occurring during pregnancy and breastfeeding rather than the use of breast pumps. However, it’s essential to use electric breast pumps correctly to minimize any potential impact on breast shape and tissue health.

Additionally, a study investigating different methods of human milk transfer, including direct breastfeeding, hand expression, and mechanical milk transfer using breast pumps, provides insights into the physical changes in breast tissue. The study observed that mechanical pump use led to increased nipple length and diameter compared to direct breastfeeding and hand expression. Participants using breast pumps also reported significant pain, indicating potential discomfort associated with prolonged use.

While these findings are important to know, they do not suggest a direct causal link between electric breast pumps and breast sagging. Proper pump sizing, avoiding excessive suction levels, and taking breaks during pumping sessions can help mitigate any potential adverse effects on breast tissue.

Can Electric Breast Pumps Damage Milk Ducts?

Improper pump fit, excessive suction, or prolonged pumping sessions can potentially cause damage to the delicate milk ducts within the breast. This can lead to issues like clogged ducts, decreased milk supply, or nipple pain. To mitigate these risks, it’s essential to ensure proper pump sizing, adjust suction levels according to comfort, and take breaks during extended pumping sessions. By adhering to these practices, breastfeeding mothers can help prevent potential damage to their milk ducts and maintain optimal breast health.

Choosing a Safe and Reliable Pump

When selecting the best electric breast pump, it’s essential to consider factors that contribute to safety and effectiveness:

Features to Look for

  • Adjustable Suction Levels: Customizable suction allows you to find the most comfortable and effective setting for your needs.
  • Closed Hygienic System: A closed system prevents milk from entering the tubing and motor, reducing the risk of contamination and making cleaning easier.
  • BPA-Free Materials: Look for pumps made with food-grade, BPA-free plastic to ensure safety for you and your baby.
  • Portability and Ease of Use: Consider whether you need a pump suitable for travel, work, or on-the-go pumping.
  • Reputable Brands: Research and choose a pump from a reputable brand with a good track record for quality, safety, and customer support.

Tips for Safe Use of Electric Breast Pumps

To ensure effective and safe use of your electric breast pump, follow these tips:

  • Read and follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully, including guidelines for assembly, cleaning, and maintenance.
  • Wash your hands thoroughly before handling the pump or before expressing milk.
  • Properly clean and sterilize all pump parts that come into contact with your breast or milk after each use, following the manufacturer’s recommendations.
  • Adjust the suction level to the most comfortable setting, avoiding excessive suction that causes pain or discomfort.
  • Take breaks during extended pumping sessions to prevent breast or nipple soreness.
  • Inspect all pump components regularly for any signs of damage or wear and replace them as needed.
  • Store breast milk safely, following proper refrigeration or freezing guidelines.

Concluding It Here

At the end of the day, electric breast pumps are invaluable tools that empower mothers to provide the nourishment of breast milk to their little ones, even when they can’t be physically present. While there are some potential concerns to be aware of, most of them can be easily addressed by following the manufacturer’s instructions, practicing good hygiene, and seeking guidance from lactation consultants or healthcare professionals when needed.

Remember, every breastfeeding journey is unique, and what matters most is making informed choices that align with your circumstances and priorities. So, embrace the convenience of electric breast pumps with confidence, knowing that you’re taking the necessary precautions to ensure a safe and rewarding breastfeeding experience for both you and your baby.