Open vs Closed System Breast Pumps: Which Are Better?

Breast pump, mothers breast milk is the most healthy food for newborn baby.

  • Open system breast pumps may allow milk to get into the tubing or pump motor.
  • Closed system breast pumps have a barrier to prevent milk from getting into the tubing or pump motor.
  • If milk gets into the tubing of an open system breast pump, the tubing needs to be cleaned and allowed to dry completely.

There are so many things to think about before and after your baby arrives. One of the choices you may be trying to make is what kind of breast pump is best for you. This might not feel like an easy choice because there are so many options out there.

To narrow it down a little, you will want to consider the pros and cons of the many different types of breast pumps on the market, but where should you start?

The first thing you’ll want to think about is deciding between an open vs closed system breast pump, and we’re going to help you make an informed decision. 

What Are Open System Breast Pumps?

When talking about breast pumps, using the word open vs closed depends on if there is a milk barrier or not. A milk barrier will prevent milk in the collection container from getting into the tubing. If there is no barrier between the milk and the tubing or pumping mechanism, it is an open system.

Because there is no milk barrier in an open system breast pump, there is nothing to prevent milk from spilling from the collection container into the tubing, and possibly the breast pump motor. If milk does get into the tubing, the tubing must be cleaned and allowed to dry completely.  Making sure the tubing is clean and dry will prevent bacteria or mold from growing.

When shopping for a new breast pump, there are only a couple of open system pumps on the market, so they may be harder to find. Some older model pumps like the original Medela Freestyle offer an open system option.

What Are Closed System Breast Bumps?

In a closed system breast pump, there is a barrier between the milk and the tubing that leads to the pumping mechanism. The barrier, which is also sometimes called overflow protection by companies like Medela, will stop milk from getting into the tubing as you’re pumping. 

Even though the systems are called closed systems, they are not really completely closed. For the pump to be able to create suction while you’re pumping, it needs to be able to allow air into and out of them.

When shopping for a breast pump you’re probably going to come across a lot more closed system pump systems. Here are some options if you’re looking for a closed system.

Closed system breast pumps

  • Medela – Freestyle , Symphony, Pump in Style
  • Lucina – Melody one
  • Evenflo – Advanced double electric breast pump
  • Spectra – S2 plus
  • Lansinoh – Signature Pro Double
  • Ameda – Mya Joy
  • Motif – Luna
  • Elvie – Stride
  • Zomee – Z2
Mom with electric breast pump feeding for her baby.

Which Is the Better Breast Pump? Open vs Closed System 

Shopping for a breast pump can feel like a really tough decision, especially with so many options out there. When starting with the decision of which is a better pump, open vs closed, it really comes down to a personal choice.

To make that choice, you need to be informed about the major differences between the two types of systems. Knowing the pros and cons for each type is going to help you make the decision between an open or closed system.

Pro & Cons

Open SystemClosed System
Often less expensiveMilk can get into the tubing Doesn’t allow milk into the tubingNew models can be expensive
Less main parts to clean (excluding tubing)May require additional cleaning or to replace the tubingMany more options on the marketMore parts to clean
Not as many options available

Which is better?

When comparing open closed system pumps to open system pumps, there really is no exact way to identify which is the right breast pump for you. This is because it’s a personal choice, with many things to consider when making the right decision for you and your baby.

Nothing about an open vs closed system changes how the pumps work in creating suction.  Open and closed pumping systems both work very well in expressing milk. It is more about the features of the system and added requirements like cleaning. You may also consider useful features that support frequent use, or using it less often for those looking to combine brest feeding and pumping.

Manual breast pump and mother feeding.

Choosing the Right Breast Pump for You


Any part of the breast pump that comes into contact with milk should be cleaned between each use. The bottles, shields, and valves can be cleaned with dish soap and water, or be put in the dishwasher.

If you’re using an open system pump, milk can get into the tubing. Milk that gets into the tubing can possibly make its way down to the pumping mechanism affecting the machine itself. Milk in the tubing can also allow bacteria or mold to grow. If this does happen, the tubing needs to be cleaned.

If bacteria or mold grows in the tubing this could present a health risk to your baby. It is only necessary to clean the tubing if it has come into contact with milk.

Breast pump parts can’t be truly sterilized at home, even if placed in boiling water. However, they can still be sufficiently sanitized using soap and water. Breast pump tubing that can’t be cleaned or dried properly should be replaced.

What if the pump is pre-owned?

Most breast pumps are considered to be single-use. Breast pumps should not be used by multiple users unless they are designed to do so. To know if a pump is meant for single or multiple users, you would need to find this information from the pump manufacturer.

The facts around an open system pump and the lack of a barrier to prevent milk from getting into the tubing may be something you want to think about if looking at used pumps. You would want to be confident that the used pump was maintained and cleaned properly.

The open system vs closed system pump design does not have anything to do with single vs multiple-use breast pumps. Just because a pump is a closed system, doesn’t mean it is intended for multiple users. That information would still have to come from the breast pump manufacturers.

If you are thinking about buying a used open system breast pump from someone, you might want to change the breast pump’s tubing to put your mind at ease.

Renting a breast pump

There are some scenarios when you might want to think about renting a breast pump. Maybe you find yourself admitted to the hospital, or maybe you are enjoying a vacation and you forget one of your pump parts at home.

Some hospitals and lactation support services will allow you to rent a breast pump. Much like the concerns about cleaning when thinking about buying a used breast pump, you want to think about the same things if you need to rent a pump.

If renting a breast pump, you want to ask about the cleaning process used to clean them. It is important to confirm attention is being given to cleaning the tubing when needed and that the tubing is being allowed to dry completely. 

You may also hear about hospital grade pumps, or the term medical grade being used when describing the pumps available. These are not terms recognized by agencies like the FDA. The term hospital grade or medical grade can mean different things to different companies and you should clarify the meaning with the company.

There are some benefits to renting a breast pump. If you think you may only need a pump for a short time or maybe you are not sure if you will want to continue. Renting can be a cost-effective way to get your hands on a pump. Renting a breast pump can also be a way for you to test a certain model pump that you are thinking about buying.

Choosing between an open vs closed system breast pump is an important personal decision.  Knowing the facts about each type of system is the best way to make that choice for you and your family.

Open vs Closed System Breast Pumps: Which Are Better Pin

The information WonderBaby provides is not intended to be, and does not constitute, medical or other health advice or diagnosis and should not be used as such. Always consult with a qualified medical professional about your specific circumstances.

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