One of the challenging things about pumping breast milk at work is dealing with your breast pump parts. In addition to packing them and carrying them back and forth every day, you also have to constantly wash them! Here’s how to clean pump parts at work with the least amount of hassle.
Some common questions regarding how to clean breast pump parts at work include: can you reuse breast pump parts? Should you be washing pump parts between sessions? What should I do if I forget pump parts at home? Do breast pump parts need to be dry? How should I store pump parts when bring them to work? Here are the answers.
Managing/Transporting Pump Parts
You have a couple of options for how to handle washing your pump parts at work.
1. Refrigerate one set of pump parts in between sessions and wash it at the end of the day.
With this option, you bring a gallon-sized Ziploc bag or Pumparoo, and put your pump parts in it after you’re done pumping. (Since it’s opaque, a Pumparoo might be better if you need to store pump parts in a communal fridge.) When it’s time to pump again, you grab them from the fridge and you’re good to go.
While this is by far easiest option, there are a few downsides. First, the CDC released guidelines in 2017 that state breast pump parts should be washed after each use. I’m not 100% convinced by this recommendation (you can read my take here), but I’m not a doctor or scientist, so you should take my opinion with a grain of salt.
The other issue is that when you take the pump parts out of the fridge, they are obviously really cold on your breasts. It’s not a big deal, just not the most comfortable thing.
2. Use one set of pump parts, and wash it after each use.
This can be pretty time consuming. It’s also not easy if you don’t have a private sink in your lactation room and want some privacy when it comes to your pumping gear.
Another issue with this is getting the pump parts dry after washing in time for the next session. In my experience, pump parts work better when they are dry, and you might not be enough time in between sessions for them to air dry completely.
3. Bring one set of pump parts for each pumping session, and wash them all at the end of the day.
This is what I would do if you want to comply with CDC’s guidelines. If you pump three times a day, you bring in three sets of pump parts (each packed and ready to go in a Ziploc bag), using a new one at each pumping session. Then you wash them once at the end of the day in a big batch, so you don’t have to spend extra time washing after each session.
The cons of this approach are that you have to invest in multiple sets of pump parts.
The other thing to think about is whether or not you’ll carry your pump parts home with you every night. If you are able to wash your pump parts at work and leave them there, this can be easier – it’s less to carry and you don’t have to worry about forgetting your breast shields.
If you’re not able to leave them at work, just do whatever is easier – wash them at work and bring them home, or just wash them at home.
If you decide to wash them at home, you should still keep an extra set of pump parts at work if possible. Once I forgot my breast shields and tried pumping without them, putting my nipple right in the connector. It was a bad idea.
(However, if you do forget an essential pump part and you can’t go home, pharmacies often carry manual pumps. Your best bet will probably be to pick one up to get you through the day.)
How to Clean Pump Parts at Work
If you decide wash your pump parts at work, here’s how I would suggest doing it.
You will need a wash basin, a bottle brush, some dish soap, and either some clean towels or paper towels. (Note: The wash basin is to avoid bacteria from putting the breast pump parts directly in a sink with food residue.) Hopefully, you have a luxurious lactation room with access to a private sink and microwave, but if that’s not the case, the wash basin can actually make things easier, because you don’t have to monopolize a shared sink while you wash your pump parts.
- Put soap in the wash basin and fill it up with hot water.
- Take your pump parts apart – everything that can be taken apart* should be. (I didn’t know this when I was a new mom and didn’t remove the valves when washing!)
- Put your pump parts in the wash basin, and wash each piece with a bottle brush that you only use for washing bottles and pump parts.
- When you’re done washing each piece, rinse it and put it on the clean towel or paper towel.
- When you’re finished, dump out the wash basin and lift the towel (with your pump parts still on it) into the wash basin. Carry everything back to your desk or wherever you can leave them to air dry.
* If you have a Medela Pump in Style and the yellow piece gets stuck to the connector, run it under hot water for a few minutes, grip it with a paper towel, and twist it off.
Optional step: If you have access to a microwave, sterilize the breast pump parts using a Medela sterilizer steam bag.
Do you have any tips for how to clean pump parts at work? Share them in the comments!