Experiment: Water vapour in Medela tubing

Wifey has been expressing milk for lil’ Timmy for a couple of months now. She’s using the Medela Pump-in-Style model – a hand-me-down which we were (again!) grateful to accept. The Philips Avent model we had purchased was really quite pathetic and we were truly thankful when the offer for the PIS came, along with a plethora of accessories all looking a little worse for wear. The only thing we’d re-use was the pump, all the other plastic and valve bits were purchased new from the shops.

The tubes it came with were yellow with age. The other set didn’t even fit the pump – it had plastic fittings on both ends. I cut the fittings off one end, and it was good to go. Over the next couple of weeks, mould (or mold) crept into the tubing and we visited the shops for a new set. $24!

According to the web, once mould has presented inside the tube, you could boil/clorox/vinegar it and that would kill the mould. Dead mould still looks bad, so it would be advisable to replace it.

Preventive measures include leaving the tubes connected to the pump and running for a couple of minutes after pumping. Tried it. The “couple of minutes” usually takes 45 in our humid weather. According to a sales lady at the shop, that would put undue wear on the pump (and that we should shell out for new tubes every 2 months).

Other preventive measures was to swing the tubing wildly at the end of each session and try not to hit anything/anyone including yourself. Try doing that at 2am.

Another one is to run some rubbing alcohol down the tubes to kill the stuff and to dry them out.

I decided to try my grubby hands on a DIY fix – getting the tubes connected to an air pump used for aquariums. I picked up a dual nozzle one from a market I was passing through and brought it home. The Medela tubes are smaller than regular aquarium air tubing. Some modifications had to be made. Disassembled the pump, broke out my trusty knife and scraped at the air outlets, then filed to finish.

The test: I connected some newly washed and shortened (cut off the mouldy portion and reconnected the plastic fittings) tubing to the pump and left for dinner. Came back 2 hours later, the pump is still working and our apartment isn’t on fire. The tubes were bone dry – no condensation in the tubes. Woohoo!

So moving forward, after pumping, wifey will disconnect the tubing from the Medela pump unit and fit it into the air pump. Turn the former off and the latter on, and let it run until the next pump cycle.

Yep $9 for the pump and some elbow grease to save… $24.

Update 29 February 2012

This (should) be my last update on this matter. The pump pictured above died after about a month of service. It had proven effective, so another pump was required.

This is a single outlet air pump, but I bought a 3-way valve for it. Apparently, this setup worked out of the box and no modification was required.

So if you buy the air pump with the correct size air outlet / nozzle / nipple, it is very effective for keeping mould at bay in the Medela tubes.

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