The CDC has recently issued guidelines for cleaning breast pump parts. Here is how the CDC recommends washing breast pump parts, and how to make following these recommendations as easy as possible.
This post may contain affiliate links, which means that if you click through and make a purchase, I’ll be compensated at no additional cost to you. I only recommend products I love! More info here.
Background on the CDC’s Guidelines
Previously, there was no official protocol for how breast pump parts should be cleaned, but the CDC decided to publish these after the death of preterm infant was linked to contaminated pump parts.
More information on the very sad case of the preterm infant is available here; the short version for anyone not wanting to read the story is that the baby became very sick after being exposed to a pathogen called Cronobacter sakazakii.
During the investigation, the same bacteria was found in the family’s home sink. The investigation concluded that the baby was exposed to it after the pump parts came into contact with the bacteria when they were being cleaned in that sink.
In this particular instance, the mother soaked the pump parts in hot soapy water for several hours before rinsing them off and air-drying them.
What Are The New Guidelines For Cleaning Breast Pump Parts?
The new recommendations are written to avoid cases like this.
I recommend reading and printing out the CDC’s handout, but here are a few highlights that may be different from what you are already doing:
1. Wash pump parts and bottles in a wash basin
Instead of washing your pump parts in the sink, use a wash basin that is only used for washing pump parts.
2. Take breast pump parts apart before washing
Every piece that can be taken apart should be.
(Even the ones that easily get stuck, like the yellow valve membrane on the Medela Pump in Style.)
3. Use a bottle brush only for infant cleaning items
Don’t use your bottle brush to clean your food dishes or anything else.
If you have a dishwasher, run your wash basin and bottle brush through it once a day.
4. Scrub in hot soapy water, then rinse
Wash your bottles and pump parts with the bottle brush in hot soapy water, then rinse in clean running water.
5. Air dry pump parts
Allow your pump parts to completely air dry after washing. Do not dry them with a rag.
Once they’ve dried, you can store them in a clean covered container, like a food storage container or a plastic zip-top bag.
Can You Wash Pump Parts in the Dishwasher?
Yes. If your bottles and pump parts are dishwasher safe, the CDC states that is also an acceptable way to wash them.
Put pump parts and nipples in a mesh bag or container, and use soap and a hot water and heated drying cycle.
If parts are still somewhat wet when the cycle is finished, allow them to finish air drying before storing them in a container.
Do You Have to Sterilize Breast Pump Parts after Each Use?
The CDC recommends sterilizing pump parts, bottles, your wash basin, and bottle brush at least once per day if your baby is less than three months, is currently ill, or was born prematurely.
There are a bunch of different ways you can sterilize pump parts. More on how to do this here.
What About the Fridge Hack?
So far, all of the guidelines that we’ve talked about have been pretty manageable.
Now, here’s the kicker. The CDC now says that you should wash your pump parts “as soon as possible after every use.”
That … is a tough one to swallow. In the past, I have recommended keeping pump parts in the refrigerator in a zip-top plastic bag in between uses, and washing them thoroughly every 12-24 hours. This is known as the “fridge hack.”
I think washing after each use makes perfect sense for moms who pump once or twice at day in their own homes.
But it’s hard to know whether the writers considered the fact that some women pump 12 times a day, sometimes when they are not in their homes, sometimes in the middle of the night, and thought about possible alternatives and the trade-offs to recommending washing immediately after every use.
For example, is it better for a mother to put her pump parts in the fridge between uses, or to wash her pump parts every time as described – and then give up and stop exclusively pumping altogether because she can’t stand over a sink and spend 15 minutes washing pump parts in the middle of the night when she is exhausted and has already been up for an hour pumping and feeding the baby?
It depends on whether the risks justify the recommendation to wash after every use. Maybe they do – I’m not a scientist or medical professional. And the health of your baby is of course the most important thing.
How Can You Make Following CDC Guidelines for Washing Pump Parts Easier?
What I’m going to describe here is what I would do in terms of cleaning breast pump parts if I was still exclusively pumping. You should read it with the understanding that I’m a mom who has pumped a lot, but also is not a doctor or a scientist.
In order to follow the recommendation to wash pump parts after each use, I would buy enough sets of pump parts to get me through a full day.
At the end of the day, I would wash them all together in a batch as described in the CDC handout, and then sterilize them.
Alternatively, I might run the dishwasher every night. Some parents in the Facebook group empty their dishwasher every morning, and then put their pump parts in it (along with dishes) throughout the day as they pump. Then they turn it on before going to bed.
The obvious downfall of this strategy – buying a lot of pump parts – is that it can get expensive. There are a few ways that you may be able to mitigate this cost:
- You may be able to find replacement parts at a better price on amazon, as Nenesupply and Maymom may make more affordable sets that are compatible with your pump.
- You may be able to get replacement breast pump parts for free through your insurance company.
What do you think about this guidance for cleaning breast pump parts, and what is your plan? Tell us in the comments!References
- Bowen, Anna, et al. “Notes from the Field: Cronobacter sakazakii Infection Associated with Feeding Extrinsically Contaminated Expressed Human Milk to a Premature Infant — Pennsylvania, 2016.” https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/66/wr/mm6628a5.htm
- Centers for Disease Control. “How to Keep Your Breast Pump Kit Clean.” https://www.cdc.gov/healthywater/pdf/hygiene/breast-pump-fact-sheet.pdf