By: Hailey Nelson, MD, FAAP, IBCLC
Breast milk offers many
benefits to babies and their parents. It provides optimal nutrition to help infants grow. Pumping is one way to maintain your
milk supply and provide breast milk when not directly breastfeeding. However, unless it is stored properly once pumped, germs can grow quickly in breast milk. That's why it is important to make sure all parts of the pump that come into contact with milk are cleaned.
Below are steps suggested by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to keep your breast pump clean and protect against germs. Keep in mind that If your baby was born
preterm (prematurely) or has other health concerns, their health care provider may have more recommendations for pumping breast milk safely.
Before using your breast pump each time:
Wash your hands well with soap and water for 20 seconds.
Clean the pumping area. Use disinfectant wipes on the countertop where the pump and bottles will be placed during the session.
Assemble a clean pump kit. Check to make sure the pump kit or tubing has become dirty or moldy during storage. If your tubing is moldy, dispose of and replace it immediately.
If you're sharing a pump, clean it. Be sure to clean the surface of the pump, including the power switch and dials.
After using your breast pump each time:
- Store the milk safely. Cap the collection bottle or bag you're using and label with date and time it was pumped. Immediately put it in a
refrigerator, freezer or cooler bag with ice packs. If the milk collection container will be stored at a hospital or child care center, be sure your name is on the label.
- Clean the pumping area. Especially if you're using a shared pump, clean the dials, power switch, and countertop with disinfectant wipes again.
- Take apart & inspect the pump kit. Take apart the breast pump tubing and separate all the parts that come in contact with the breast and/or breast milk. This includes flanges, valves, membranes, connectors and milk collection bottles.
- Rinse & clean the pump kit. Rinse the breast pump parts that come into contact with the breast and/or breast milk. Hold them under running water to remove any remaining milk.
As soon as possible after pumping, clean the pump parts that come into contact with the breast and/or breast milk in one of the following ways.
Cleaning your breast pump by hand
- Use a wash basin & soapy water. Place pump parts in a clean washing bowl or basin that's used only for washing infant feeding equipment. Do not place pump parts directly in the sink because germs in sinks or drains could contaminate the pump. Fill wash basin with hot water and add soap.
- Scrub items according to the pump kit's manufacturer's guidance. If using a brush, use a clean one that is used only on infant feeding items.
- Rinse by holding items under running water. Or, submerge them in fresh water in a separate basin used only for cleaning infant feeding items.
- Dry. Allow to air-dry thoroughly. Place the pump parts, wash basin and bottle brush on a clean, unused dish towel or paper towel. Do this in an area protected from dirt and dust. Do not use a dish towel to rub or pat items dry, because this can transfer germs to the items.
Cleaning your breast pump in a dishwasher
If cleaning in a dishwasher is recommended by pump kit manufacturer:
Wash. Place the disassembled pump parts in the dishwasher. Be sure to place the small items into a closed-top basket or mesh laundry bag so they don't end up in the dishwasher filter. If possible, run the dishwasher using hot water and a heated drying cycle (or sanitizing setting); this can help kill more germs.
Remove from dishwasher. Wash your hands with soap and water before removing and storing the cleaned items. If items are not completely dry, place items on a clean, unused dish towel or paper towel to air-dry thoroughly before storing. Do not use a dish towel to rub or pat items dry because doing so may transfer germs to the items.
Remember to clean your wash basin & bottle brush. If you use a wash basin or bottle brush when cleaning your pump parts, rinse them well and allow them to air-dry after each use. Consider washing them every few days. You can do this either in a dishwasher with hot water and a heated drying cycle (if they are dishwasher-safe) or by hand with soap and warm water.
Do I need to clean the breast pump tubing?
When used correctly, breast pump tubing does not touch the pumped milk so does not need to be cleaned routinely. However, keep a spare set of tubing on hand in case the set you are using gets dirty or damaged.
Also keep in mind:
- If your breast pump tubing has water droplets in it at the end of a pumping session, here's what to do:
- Disconnect the tubing from the flange/pump kit, but leave it attached to the pump.
- Run the pump for a few more minutes until the tubing is dry.
- If your tubing has milk or mold in it, throw it away immediately since it is difficult to clean properly. Replace it with a new set of tubing and check to see if the problem happened because:
- the valves or membranes need to be replaced.
- the tubing was attached to the pump incorrectly.
- If the outside of your tubing is dirty, wipe it with a damp cloth or disinfectant wipe.
For extra protection, sanitize
For extra germ removal, sanitize pump parts at least once every day. Sanitizing is especially important if your baby is less than 2 months old, was born prematurely, or has a weakened immune system due to illness or medical treatment (such as chemotherapy for cancer).
Daily sanitizing of pump parts may not be necessary for older, healthy babies, if the parts are cleaned carefully after each use. Sanitize all items (even the bottle brush and wash basin!) by using one of the following options:
Note: If you use a dishwasher with hot water and a heating drying cycle (or sanitizing setting) to clean infant feeding items, a separate sanitizing step is not necessary.
How to sanitize your breast pump
Clean first. Pump parts, bottle brushes, and wash basins should be sanitized only after they have been cleaned.
Sanitize the pump kit, bottle brushes, and wash basins using one of the following options. Check manufacturer's instructions about whether items may be steamed or boiled.
Steam. Use a microwave or plug-in steam system according to the manufacturer's directions.
Boil. Place disassembled items that are safe to boil into a pot and cover with water. Put the pot over heat and bring to a boil. Boil for 5 minutes. Remove items with clean tongs.
Allow to air-dry completely. Put the sanitized pump parts, wash basin and bottle brush on a clean, unused dish towel or paper towel. Do this in an area that's protected from dirt and dust. Do not use a dish towel to rub or pat items dry because this may transfer germs to the items.
Store safely until next time you use it
Let the clean pump parts, bottle brushes and wash basin to air-dry thoroughly before storing them. This helps prevent germs and mold from growing. Once completely dry, the items should be stored in a clean, protected area to keep them from being contaminated during storage.
Wash hands well with soap and water.
Reassemble. Put together the clean, dry pump parts.
Store safely. Place reassembled pump kit in a clean, protected area such as inside an unused, sealable food storage bag. Store wash basins and bottle brushes in a clean area.
About Dr. Nelson
Hailey Nelson, MD, FAAP, IBCLC, is a complex care pediatrician at Valley Children's Hospital in Madera, California. Dr. Nelson enjoys working with children of all ages and abilities and is especially passionate about providing the best possible care to medically fragile children and their families. She is also a licensed breastfeeding consultant, certified by the International Board of Lactation Consultants to support nursing mothers and their babies.