Taking an Insulin Pump Break: What You Need to Know

*Disclaimer: This article is not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis, opinion, treatment or services. This blog is meant to provide general information for educational purposes only. The information provided in this blog is not a substitute for medical care and should not replace advice from your healthcare provider.*

cover image with text: taking an insulin pump break: what you need to know

Many people with type 1 diabetes utilize insulin pumps to manage your blood sugar. However, constantly having a device attached to your body can become quite burdensome. Taking a short or long-term vacation from your pump can be a refreshing way to reduce burnout. If you decide that it is time for a pump break, there are a lot of things that you should consider before making the transition to insulin injections so you can make the transition easily and safely. Here is what you need to know.


Why Take a Pump Break

There are many reasons someone may choose to take a break from their insulin pump. Having a device attached to your body can easily contribute to burnout. It is important to recognize the signs of burnout from wearing a medical device so you can intervene as soon as possible. From my own personal experience with pumping, I knew it was time to take a pump break because I was growing increasingly frustrated with every pump malfunction or needed to do an early site change. You can read more about my experience pumping here.


Another reason someone may decide to take a pump break is during a vacation. While on vacation you want to be able to relax and it can be quite a hassle and worry about disconnecting from your pump for too long. This can give you a mental break to allow the sun, sand, and water for as long as you want.


There also may be times where you don’t have a choice in taking a pump break, like if you are experiencing skin irritation, have a scheduled surgery, or have a technology failure. With skin irritation, you may need to give your skin a break from adhesives to allow your skin to heal. If you are constantly using sites with skin irritation, it may negatively impact your insulin absorption. In addition if you have a scheduled surgery or procedure, you may be required to take your pump off. If preparing for surgery or a hospital stay, ask beforehand whether or not you can leave your insulin pump. That way you can have a game plan prior to your procedure. Additionally, insulin pumps are not perfect devices. They can still have glitches, malfunction completely, or get damaged where you have no choice but to take a pump break.


Whatever the case may be for your pump vacation, it is to be as prepared as possible for an easy and streamlined transition to reduce any additional unwanted frustration or stress.


How to Prepare for a Pump Break

Whether you are planning to take a pump vacation or not, it is vital to be prepared just in case you experience a pump malfunction, water damage, or other technology issues with your pump. When you prepare ahead, you can have the peace of mind that you’ll be able to manage your blood sugar if there comes a time you can’t or don’t want to use your insulin pump.


Talk to your care team about a pump break

It's critical to talk to your care team if you want to take a break from your pump. Depending on how long you plan on being without your insulin pump, your healthcare providers recommendations vary. For example, if you are without your pump for less than 24 hours you may only need fast-acting insulin coverage and may not need any long-lasting insulin. But if you are planning for longer than 24 hours, you will likely require both fast-acting and long-lasting insulin coverage. Your care team will be able to provide you with an insulin regimen depending on the length of your desired pump break.


Stock up on back up supplies

While on your pump vacation, you’ll need to get your insulin through injections either from an insulin pen or with vials and syringes. Again, depending on how long you plan on taking your pump break will determine whether or not you will need both fast-acting and long-lasting insulin coverage. But, it is wise to stock up on both types of insulin, pen tips, and/or syringes for planned breaks or emergency situations. Having these items stocked up is like making sure you have a first aid kit in your home. It can bring you a piece of mind knowing you have supplies easily available at a moment's notice. Because nothing is worse than having your pump fail at 8pm on a Sunday when your doctor is out of office and all the pharmacies are closed. Try to be proactive as possible!


Write down your ratios

Your insulin pump settings are changing constantly so it is important to write them down and keep them in a safe spot. You don’t want to be in a position where you only have your pump settings from 2 years ago because they likely have changed quite a bit! By taking a picture of your pump settings on your phone once a month or even writing them down in the note section on your phone can be a good habit to form. Having your ratios available can assist your care team with providing your insulin regimen for injections and will make the transition back to pumping easier. Having your insulin pump settings and ratios can provide you with reassurance and a peace of mind that you have your up-to-date settings whenever you need them.


Reconnecting to Your Pump After a Break

When you are considering going back to your insulin pump, alert your care team so they can be there to support you and come up with a game plan. You’ll want to have their input to decide if there should be any changes to your settings or if you should go back to your last known pump settings. They can answer any questions you have and can give you tips for the transition. Together, you and your care team can safely and successfully get you back to using your pump.