The CDC has recently issued guidelines for cleaning breast pump parts. Previously, there was no official protocol, but the CDC decided to publish these after the death of preterm infant was linked to contaminated pump parts. Here is how the CDC recommends washing breast pump parts, and how to make following the recommendations as easy as possible.
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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. This handout is easy to read and print, so below I’ll just summarize a few of the instructions that may be different from what you’re already doing:
- Instead of washing your pump parts in the sink, use a wash basin that is only used for washing pump parts. This will reduce the chances that bacteria from food makes its way onto your pump parts.
- When you wash bottles and pump parts, use a brush that you only use for cleaning infant feeding items.
- After your pump parts have completely air-dried, store them in a clean container (such as a Ziploc bag or a Tupperware container).
- Make sure you take the pump parts apart before washing.
- Use disinfectant wipes on the pump itself (the dials) and the countertop where you put your stuff, both before and after you pump.
- Wash your wash basin and bottle brush every few days. (If you have a dishwasher, it might be easiest to wash these using that.)
If your bottles and pump parts are dishwasher safe, 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.
Now, here’s the kicker. It says that you should wash your pump parts “as soon as possible after every use.”
(A Bit of a Rant)
That … is a tough one to swallow. In the past, I have recommended keeping pump parts in the refrigerator in a Ziploc bag in between uses, and washing them thoroughly every 12-24 hours. I’m not sure whether or not the CDC considered storing pump parts in the refrigerator as an option.
I think these guidelines make 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 safe alternatives to washing immediately after every use.
And it’s not that I think these things shouldn’t be encouraged if they will save babies’ lives! Obviously, the health of your baby is the most important thing.
It’s more that I think that if the CDC is going to recommend a very safe but also very labor intensive way to wash pump parts for everyone across the board, it’s important to consider the trade-offs.
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 breastfeeding 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?
Is it better for a working mom to wait until she gets home to wash her pump parts, or to decide not to pump at work because she can’t fit a wash basin in the work sink she uses, and switch to formula during the day?
It depends on whether the risks justify the recommendation to wash after every use. Maybe they do. But I would be interested in hearing more about how the CDC came to these recommendations and what alternatives, if any, were considered.
So. How to make following these new guidelines 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. Then I would wash them all together in a batch as described in the CDC handout. After washing, I would also sanitize the pump parts once a day. (More on sterilizing pump parts here.)
Additionally, I might run the dishwasher once per a day along with hand washing, in order to reduce the number of sets of pump parts that are needed. (You can wash pump parts in a Pumpie dishwasher bag, or something similar.)
One downfall of this strategy – buying a lot of pump parts – is that it can get expensive. You may be able to find them at a better price on amazon, as Nenesupply and Maymom may make sets that are compatible with your pump. Additionally, you may be able to get replacement breast pump parts through your insurance company.
So that’s how I see things, in light of this recommendation. How about you? What do you think about this guidance, and what is your plan?
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- 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