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HOW TO CLEAN YOUR BREAST PUMP PARTS
Do you know what is one of the least favorite things about breastfeeding? Cleaning breast pump parts. I have never heard a mom say this was something she looks forward to. Not once.
That probably doesn’t come as a big surprise to you. It’s the breastfeeding equivalent of washing the dishes. But if you pump, you have to clean your breast pump parts.
Over the years, moms have come up with short-cuts and hacks to make it easier and faster.
Two very popular pump cleaning hacks were thrown a curve ball recently. The hacks were hacked when the CDC issued their new breast pump cleaning guidelines in 2017.
Moms wanted to know if you can reuse breast pump parts without washing.
One suggested hack was storing breast pump parts in the fridge between pumping sessions. The concern about this is the potential for bacteria to grow and contaminate the milk when you pump.
If you are wondering, do I have to wash my breast pump parts after every use, the recommendation is that you do.
Another hack is letting breast pump parts soak in soapy water. It seemed logical to assume that soapy water was a safe place for the used pump parts to hang out. Unfortunately that was not the case in a very tragic incident.
The CDC came up with their guidelines in response to the death of a premature infant. The cause of death was an infection from a bacteria.
It should be clearly stated that the infant didn’t die because of bacteria from refrigerated pump parts. The bacteria was traced back to a basin where the mama soaked her pump parts in soapy water for several hours.
The CDC guideline is best practice. That means that these are the best things to do to minimize the risk that breast milk will get contaminated with harmful bacteria from breast pump parts.
The truth is we don’t always do what is best. Sometimes we do what is good enough.
We all live in the real world. Yes, I’m looking at you mom, who just picked up the pacifier off the floor and blew on it.
The other truth is, at the end of the day we all want to do what is safest for our babies.
HOW TO CLEAN YOUR BREAST PUMP
CDC BREAST PUMP CLEANING STEP BY STEP
There are eighteen points in the CDC guidelines. Eighteen! That’s enough to make a pumping mom cry.
The guidelines state that you should clean your kit “as soon as possible.” So many steps can make it feel like it could easily double the amount of time it takes to pump from start to finish.
It’s actually not quite as daunting as it first looks.
Let’s look at each step. Let’s look at safe alternatives.
- Wash your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds
- Inspect and assemble your clean kit.
- Make sure your tubing isn’t moldy. It should be clear. A quick look is all it takes.
- Does your tubing gets condensation in it? Run the pump for a couple of minutes with just the tubing on and this should dry it out.
- If you do this when you finish pumping it reduces the chance that mold will grow.
- Clean the pump with a disinfectant wipe, especially if using a shared pump.
- Don’t skip this if you share a pump. Absolutely, positively do not skip it.
- Store milk safely. Of course, you are going to do this!
- Clean the pumping area.
- You definitely want to do this if you are sharing your pumping area. Keep a container of disinfectant wipes in your pumping bag. I like soft packs because they will take up less space.
- You can also use a clean portable surface.
- Take apart the tubing and separate all the parts. Every single one. (I was helping a mom once who hadn’t been removing the little white diaphragm on the yellow valve of her Medela pump and it was all moldy when we took it off. Gross.)
- Rinse any part that comes into contact with breast milk. Use running water.
- Moms who have to pump on the go won’t always have access to running water. You can use a bottle of water to pour over the pump parts to rinse them off.
- Clean parts that come into contact with milk as soon as possible.
- Have a washbasin that is used only for pump cleaning.
- Hot water and soap.
- Scrub according to manufacturer’s instructions.
- If you use a brush it should only be used for cleaning your pump parts.
- Rinse with clean water.
- Air dry on a clean towel or paper towel.
- Do not use a dish towel to dry.
- Clean basin and brush by rinsing them and allow them to air dry.
- Every few days washbasin and brush by hand or in a dishwasher.
- Store parts in a clean, protected space.
ALTERNATIVE TO WASHING BY HAND WHEN CLEANING BREAST PUMP PARTS
- Cleaning pump parts in a dishwasher.
- Use hot water
- Use heated or sanitizing drying cycle
- If parts don’t dry completely allow to air dry.
SANITIZE DAILY FOR EXTRA PROTECTION
This step is especially important when:
- Your baby is less than 3 months old
- Babies born prematurely
- Babies with a weakened immune system
BREAST PUMP CLEANING TIPS
All those steps can look overwhelming. But it’s not quite as bad as it seems. In my opinion the things to remember are:
- Wash your hands and make sure the area where you are pumping is clean.
- Take everything apart when washing.
- Air dry
- Have a basin and brush that is dedicated to washing your parts.
- You can wash your pump parts in a dishwasher.
- Take extra precautions if your baby is at risk.
CLEANING BREAST PUMP PARTS AT WORK
If you can follow the CDC guidelines, then you should.
If you can’t follow the CDC guidelines, then you should do the best that you can. I have not seen any evidence that it is safer to switch to formula if you can’t clean your breast pump parts as described in the guideline.
What should you do if you are not living in that breast pump cleaning utopia? Look at what is possible, and how to make it as safe as possible.
When you are deciding how to clean your breast pump parts you need to look at what is available to you. There are three things to consider.
If you have the time, then the best option for cleaning breast pump parts is to go through all the steps in the CDC guideline. If you don’t have enough time, keep reading.
The easiest and most time efficient way to handle the pump cleaning dilemma is to buy enough pump parts to get you through a day of pumping. If you pump directly into bags, then you will only need the pump flanges and the connectors. Depending on your pump, this may be one piece.
Pump pieces can be purchased individually. You don’t need a whole kit because you don’t need multiple sets of tubing.
- You use a clean pump kit each time you pump
- Rinse off each piece with cold water and store the parts in a Ziploc or reusable bag
- Wash them thoroughly and sanitize when you get home.
How expensive this will be will depend on your pump. Don’t collect used pump parts from other moms. That’s like using someone else’s toothbrush. Yuck.
Your work environment will have an impact on the choices you make.
You may have a private office and access to a sink. Your place of employment may have a dedicated pumping room with a sink. You may have none of these.
Work with what you’ve got and do the best you can.
CLEANING BREAST PUMP PARTS ON THE GO
Your employer is required to provide you with a place to pump. That law doesn’t help moms who may not be at that place. Think police officers, site inspectors, sales people who go from client to client.
Moms who have to pump on the go won’t always have access to running water. You can use a bottle of water to pour over the pump parts to rinse them off.
Other pump cleaning options include:
STERILIZING BREAST PUMP PARTS AT WORK
Another hack recommended is to just rinse your pump parts and use a Medela Quick Clean Bag. These bags are great, but they don’t sterilize your pump parts.
According to the FDA you can’t sterilize them. You can sanitize them though. Using the Quick Clean bags will do that. This is a good option if you have access to a microwave.
CLEANING BREAST PUMP TUBING
I frequently get asked “what is the best way to clean pump tubing?”
You only need to wipe down any milk that gets on the outside of the tubing. If milk or water gets inside the tubing it cannot be properly cleaned and needs to be thrown out.
Some pumps will get condensation in the tubing. To dry it out let the pump run with just the tubing attached for a couple of minutes. This usually dries out any moisture.
BREAST PUMP CLEANING HACKS
- Having multiple pump parts
- Using cleaning wipes or sprays
- Using sanitizing steam bags
- Using a bottle of water to rinse off milk when you don’t have access to running water
BREAST PUMP CLEANING FAQs
Do I have to dry pump parts?
It is recommended to air dry pump parts.
Do you have to sterilize breast pump parts?
As I mentioned previously, you can sanitize your pump parts, but it’s not really possible to sterilize them.
You should sanitize your pump parts before using them for the first time, unless they come in a sterilized package.
If you have a premature, sick or at-risk baby you should sanitize the parts once a day.
Can you put pump parts in the dishwasher?
Yes you can, unless the manufacturer recommends against it.
SITUATIONS WHEN THE CDC GUIDELINES MUST BE FOLLOWED TO THE LETTER
You absolutely must use a pump kit that has been properly cleaned every time if you are pumping for a baby that is at risk or compromised.
- Premature baby in the NICU
- Immunocompromised baby
- If in doubt, check with your baby’s health care provider
FINAL THOUGHTS ON CLEANING BREAST PUMP PARTS
Cleaning your pump parts is not going to be a favorite part of breastfeeding. It’s just one of those things that has to be done.
Fortunately there are still some hacks that will make it go just a bit faster.
Properly cleaning your breast pump parts is only one of the things that keeps your milk safe. Make sure you download my Milk Storage Guidelines printable.
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Andrea Tran RN, MA, IBCLC
Andrea has been working with new families as an RN for over 35 years and a Lactation Consultant for over 25 years.
She has her MA in Health and Wellness with a focus in Lactation.