Cleaning your breast pump parts has always been a very important process and is a hot topic of conversation among moms. What’s the best way to clean pump parts? Should you clean right after using your pump? Though many moms go about cleaning their breast pump parts differently, there is actually a specific process that works best.

Dangers of an unclean breast pump

After an infant passed away after contracting a Cronobacter Infection from ingesting milk from an improperly cleaned breast pump, the CDC came out and addressed the topic directly. The tragic situation happened in early 2016, when a premature baby ingested contaminated breast milk. An investigation found that the mom had left her pump parts soaking in soapy water and rinsed them off hours later. It’s suspected that the water was a breeding ground for germs, specifically the Cronobacter germs that led to the contamination. This heartbreaking situation is a reminder of how crucial it is to properly sanitize breast pump parts, and how important it is to ignore the urge to toss the parts in water to soak until you can clean them.

Recommendations for cleaning

In a Parents Magazine article, Dr. Anna Bowen, CDC medical officer suggests that moms need to take a second look at how they’re cleaning their pump parts. "Although refrigerating used pump parts between uses might be okay if the pump kit is not contaminated, cleaning the pump kit after each use is safest and is particularly important for babies who are younger than two to three months old, were born prematurely, or have weakened immune systems," Dr. Bowen says.

What about cleaning wipes?

You might be wondering about the cleaning wipes many people recommend to disinfect parts. Dr. Bowen recommends avoiding these wipes when it comes to sanitizing the breast pump parts: “Quick-clean wipes cannot reach all surfaces of the pump kit, so thorough cleaning in a dishwasher or by hand is preferred," said Dr. Bowen. Some moms will purchase two sets of pump parts in order to always have a clean set on hand while the dirty parts run through a dishwasher cycle. This can be costly, though, so it’s best to take the extra time to clean your parts after each pumping session to ensure your baby isn’t exposed to any germs.

CDC's new guidelines for breast pump cleaning

We recommend taking a close look at the new CDC guidelines to make sure you are keeping your breast pump parts as clean and safe for baby as possible. It’s always worth the extra cleaning time to make sure your little one doesn’t get sick from being exposed to these germs that are hard to detect.

Here is a short overview of the new CDC guidelines for cleaning your breast pump:

Before each use:

  • Wash your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds.
  • Assemble your clean breast pump kit. Inspect your kit to make sure there’s no mold or condensation in the tubing or parts. If your tubing is moldy, discard and replace immediately.
  • Clean exterior of pump (or if you’re using a shared pump). Clean pump dials, power switch, and countertop with a disinfectant wipe.

After Every Use:

  • Store milk safely. Tightly cap your milk collection bottle or collection bag, label with date and time, and immediately place in a refrigerator, freezer, or cooler bag with ice packs.
  • Clean the pumping area. Especially if using a shared pump, clean the dials, power switch, and countertop with disinfectant wipes.
  • Take apart and inspect the pump kit. Take apart breast pump tubing and separate all parts that come in contact with breast/breast milk (for example, flanges, valves, membranes, connectors, and milk collection bottles).
  • Rinse the pump kit. Rinse breast pump parts that come into contact with breast/breast milk under running water.
  • Clean the pump kit efficiently. As soon as possible after pumping, clean the breast pump parts that come into contact with breast milk.

Are you hand-washing or cleaning pump parts in the dishwasher?

Cleaning your pump parts by hand:

To clean your breast pump parts by hand, start by preparing a wash basin. Don’t use the basin for anything but the sanitization of your pump parts because germs can collect and cross contaminate if you mix other items in the basin. Fill the basin with hot water and soap, and scrub items using a specified cleaning brush. Rinse the parts under hot running water. Dry the parts by placing them on a clean, unused dish towel in an area away from dust and direct light. Don’t pat the parts dry — this could possibly contaminate them. Don’t forget to clean the basin and your scrub brush frequently!

How to clean breast pump parts in a dishwasher (if recommended by pump kit manufacturer):

Disassemble pump parts and place them in the dishwasher. Smaller parts should go in a closed-top basket or a safe mesh bag so they don’t get lost. Run the dishwasher on a hot setting with a heated drying cycle to kill germs. Remove parts from the dishwasher. If the parts aren’t completely dry, place them on a clean towel and keep them away from direct light or dust.

To learn more about the CDC's recommendations for cleaning a breast pump, visit our guide on Cleaning Your Breast Pump.