What You Need to Know about the CDC’s New Breast Pump Guidelines

Breastfeeding advocates claim that breast is best, but for some new moms, things aren’t quite that simple. Using a breast pump to express milk is a part of the newborn feeding equation women may not have considered before their new bundles of joy arrived. Many moms are unexpectedly faced with premature or hospitalized babies who are unable to breastfeed or they choose to pump when they return to work after maternity leave.

Whatever the circumstances behind the decision to pump, moms need to know about new research that shows the importance of properly cleaning breast pump parts, especially those with preterm babies, young infants less than three months old and those with medical issues. After a premature baby contracted a serious infection from contaminated breast milk (passed on from contaminated pump parts), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published new guidelines on how moms can keep their breast pump kits clean.

Nuala Murphy, R.N. and international board-certified lactation consultant with Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas, says that while the CDC’s recommendations are an important reminder for all pumping moms, they are especially pertinent for those of premature and sick babies.

“Data like this comes out as ‘one size fits all’ and everybody gets panicked and upset when they’re already stressed out about all the decisions they have to make (with a newborn),” she says. “It’s important to differentiate what we’re talking about because preterm or sick full-term infants are much more vulnerable to infections like upper and lower respiratory diseases and necrotizing enterocolitis.

“In study after study, we find that breast milk protects against diseases that are usually pretty unique to preterm infants so it is especially beneficial for them. Most of their moms are doing more pumping and need to be particularly careful about cleanliness because their babies are more likely to pick up infections, both from bacteria-contaminated breast milk or formula.”

The CDC’s recommendations for how and when to clean your pump and parts are as follows:

Before every use:

  • Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
  • Check your pump kit for mold (especially tubing) and replace any parts if necessary.
  • If using a shared pump, clean the surface of the pump (including all dials and power switch) and the countertop with a disinfectant wipe.

After every use:

  • Store milk safely (check out CDC recommendations) by closing the container, labeling it with the date and time and store it in a refrigerator, freezer or cooler with ice packs as soon as possible. If milk will be used in a hospital or childcare facility, be sure to add your child’s name to the label.
  • If using a shared pump, clean the entire pump surface and countertop again.
  • Disassemble the pump, including all parts that come in contact with the skin or breast milk.
  • Rinse pump kit and then wash by hand or in a dishwasher (if recommended by the manufacturer).
  • If hand washing, eliminate the possibility of contamination by using a separate wash basin and bottle brush, used only for cleaning breast pump parts. Scrub pump parts with the bottle brush in hot water and soap before rinsing in running water.
  • If using the dishwasher, wash the pump parts using hot water and a heated drying cycle, and be sure to place all small parts in a closed-top basket. Remember to wash your hands before removing parts from the dishwasher.
  • Once parts have been washed by hand or in the dishwasher, allow them to air-dry on a paper towel or clean, unused dish towel. Do not pat or rub parts because germs could be transferred to them.
  • Thoroughly rinse the wash basin and bottle brush before allowing them to air dry and either hand wash or run items through the dishwasher every few days.
  • The CDC also provides information for moms who want to take the extra step of sanitizing their breast pump parts.

Safe Storage:

  • Wash hands thoroughly and reassemble pump parts when they are clean and dry.
  • Store the pump parts, dedicated wash basin and scrub brush in a clean environment until the next use.

Murphy says moms should purchase extra pump parts and breastfeed whenever they can to cut down on the stress of properly cleaning parts, especially when traveling or out in public.

“There are a million different scenarios when a mom might need to pump, but my main suggestion is to have a few extra kits because it’s worth your time and peace of mind,” she recommends. “You can use them and then wash them all at once at home, especially if you’re at work or traveling. There’s a push to provide amenities for moms traveling with children but pumping adds a whole new dimension to things. In that circumstance, it would be ideal to find a quiet area to breastfeed if you can. We encourage moms to breastfeed whenever they can and pump when they can’t.”

For moms who pump at work, Murphy recommends doing the best you can with whatever resources you have.

“Many moms have access to pump rooms that make things a little easier at work, but some don’t and still have to pump in a bathroom stall,” she says. “If there isn’t a clean place to wash and dry your pump parts, use pump cleaning wipes, try to keep things as clean as possible and wash your hands. It’s about as good as you can do.”

Murphy provides a few other important tips for pumping mothers:

  • Don’t store assembled pump parts with milk in the collection containers in the refrigerator, as it’s important to use clean pump parts every time. The breast milk will dry on the parts and could get sucked into the pump, which will build up over time. The cold could also kill off the live substance in the milk so it decreases the safety factor.
  • Rinse breast pump parts first with cold water because it gets the milk off the kit better. Hot water tends to allow the protein in the milk to stick to the plastic.
  • Don’t just rinse your pump parts in soapy water. It’s important to use a scrub brush to get the milk out of all the little crevices.
  • Use new paper towels instead of dish towels to air-dry cleaned pump parts on so you know they are always clean.
  • Use pump wipes in a pinch, but not on a daily basis, if at all possible.
  • Utilize the resources that are available to you through lactation consultants, physicians and reputable online sources. (Murphy suggests www.kellymom.com and www.nancymohrbacher.com.)

“Despite the extra steps to ensure safety and cleanliness while pumping, being able to give your baby breast milk trumps any hassle that might come with it,” Murphy says. “It’s important to take extra precautions for preterm and sick babies, but the long-term benefits for a baby’s health and development are incalculable.”

Learn more about resources available to help you achieve your breastfeeding goals by visiting Texas Health Moms.

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