15 Jun 2019

Facebook breast pump ban fires up mums

7:25 pm on 15 June 2019

"Nipple sucker 3000" and "jug juicer" are terms invented by a group of frustrated mothers, who have mounted a fight against Facebook's ban on swapping breast pumps.

When mum Raelene Edmundson tried to sell her hospital-grade breast pump through the website's Marketplace app on Monday, Facebook refused to publish her listing.

"I couldn't understand it - Facebook kept sending me these messages saying it was against all their policies," Ms Edmundson said.

After multiple attempts to advertise the pump, the Cairns mother vented her frustration in a private Facebook group.

The post sparked an outpouring from other mothers, determined to help outsmart the website with alternative names to advertise the breast pump.

"Milk machine", "jug juicer" and "lactation device" were suggested, but Ms Edmundson had no luck.

"I tried other terms that didn't use the word 'breast' but I think by then they [Facebook] had wised up to what it was I was trying to sell," she said.

Facebook claims 'safety' concern

A Facebook spokeswoman said breast pumps were classed as medical items, which were banned under the site's commerce policies.

She referred to the United States' Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which classifies standard breast pumps as "single-user devices".

Live animals, prescription drugs and tobacco-related items are also banned from being sold on Facebook.

"The safety of our users is our biggest concern - that's why we are leaning to a more conservative take on the breast pumps," the Facebook spokeswoman said.

But Ms Edmundson disputed the single-use claim.

She said she paid more than $A500 ($NZ529) for her hospital-grade pump and accessories, but depending on the type of device, costs can be in the thousands.

"I think it should absolutely be able to be reused," she said. "The machine itself doesn't even come into contact with milk and that is the most expensive part."

Blossoming market among mothers

Australian Breastfeeding Association Queensland president Naomi Hull said the demand for breast pumps was increasing.

"It's almost expected that a woman will buy a breast pump, although it's not always necessary," she said.

A report by Grand View Research published in April said the global market for breast pumps was tipped to expand 7.8 per cent over the next seven years, reaching about $4.63 billion.

Alternative options to breast pumps

Ms Hull said marketing and increased pressure for women to return to work could be factors contributing to the trend.

Ms Edmundson bought a pump when her son, Jayden, was born with a severe tongue and lip tie and was unable to breastfeed.

But not all women need a breast pump and Ms Hull said there were alternative options like hand expressing or hiring a breast pump for short-term needs.

"The list for what to buy when you're having a baby seems to be getting longer and longer," Ms Hull said. "I would suggest not necessarily feeling like you need to buy a breast pump until you actually know you need one - it's not a compulsory item, that is for certain."

She said some types of breast pumps were suitable for reuse, but smaller pumps with an attached collection kit were harder to clean and could carry a contamination risk.

Mum-to-be Victoria Rose said the idea of buying a second-hand breast pump raised eyebrows among some of her family members, who said sharing the device was "gross".

She said she believed there was a negative stigma due to a lack of understanding around express pumping.

"People don't understand how it works and think it's dirty - I think there definitely needs to be more awareness and education around breastfeeding," Ms Rose said.