How to sterilize a breast pump and the right way to clean pump parts

How to sterilize a breast pump and the right way to clean pump parts

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Keeping your breast pump clean is essential unless you want to make your baby sick from spoiled milk or bacterial or mold contamination!

If you pump at work, you can breathe a sigh of relief. There’s no need to sterilize your pump after each use. A thorough cleaning with warm soapy water and a quick wipe down with an alcohol pad is enough each time you pump. Sterilizing your parts once a day at the end of the day is enough.

Washing breast pump parts and tubing

  1. After each time you finish pumping, take apart the parts including the breast flanges, connectors, valves, and tubes. Do not let the parts dry with milk inside as they will be impossible to clean.
  2. Soak the parts (excluding the tubes) in warm soapy water and give it a good scrub with a baby bottle brush. Since breast milk is greasy, you have to use warm water, not cold water. Also make sure that you’re using a brush that’s only for cleaning your pump accessories and your baby’s bottles. You don’t want to introduce food particles or other bacteria!
  3. Rinse out the parts with warm water and then let them air dry, either on a drying rack or on a clean paper towel. Do not use a paper towel or cloth to wipe the parts, even if it’s faster. This is a sure fire way to contaminate the parts that you’ve just cleaned. If you need the parts to dry faster, try giving them a good shake to flick off any excess water.
  4. Keep the parts covered with paper towel until you’re ready to use them. Do not store them in a plastic bag as there may be moisture remaining in the parts and this can breed mold and bacteria.
  5. You should wipe down your pump daily with a clean damp paper towel or a disinfecting wipe since you’ll be handling your freshly pumped milk after touching the pump. This step isn’t so important if you’re pumping at home, but if you take your pump to work or pump in public restrooms, then you should get into the habit of wiping the pump down before and after you’ve finished using it.

Cleaning the breast pump tubes

If there is any moisture or condensation inside the tubing, turn on your pump and let the tubing air-dry.

If there is milk in the tubes, then you will need to disconnect them from the breast pump and do a deep cleaning. First you will want to rinse out as much milk as possible with warm soapy water. Then you will need to disinfect the tubes.

Some people use a dilute bleach solution (1 part bleach to 50 parts cold water), but regular isopropyl alcohol is easier to use. Rinse out the tubes with whatever sterilizing solution you’re using. And then finally rinse out the tubes once again with clean warm water. Hook the tubes up to your pump and turn it on to air-dry them.

How often should I sterilize my breast pump parts?

Breast pump parts should be cleaned and sterilized just like bottles and teats. Some parents will sterilize everything each time they pump. Others will sterilize once a day. At the bare minimum, you should sterilize your pump parts daily.

  • The easiest way to sterilize your parts is with a microwave sterilizer (also available at buybuybaby). This means you don’t have to mess with boiling water or waiting.
  • On the other hand, the tried and tested method is to boil bottles, teats, and other parts that will touch your milk in a pot of boiling water for 10 minutes.
  • If you are worried that high heat will damage the plastic parts, you can also use sterilizer tablets. Instead of boiling your pump parts, just soak them in the sterilizing solution.
  • Once your pump parts are sterilized, you need to keep them sterile! Wash your hands before touching the parts again and only touch the outer surfaces, not the interior surfaces that will come into contact with breast milk.

How do I clean and sterilize my pump parts when I’m at work or traveling?

If you need to pump while you’re working or while you’re traveling, then you probably won’t be able to find a place to soak and wash your pump parts. Public places are not the most sanitary and this can be a nightmare for working moms or moms away from home.

Working moms need to read this: the ultimate guide to pumping at work.

Besides bringing along extra clean parts to use, you can also use Medela quick clean wipes (buybuybaby) and Medela micro-steam bags (buybuybaby) for cleaning and sterilizing on the go. Here’s how to do it:

  1. After you’re finished pumping, rinse out any excess breast milk with regular tap water.
  2. Then wipe down your parts with the Medela cleaning wipes. Make sure you get into all the crevices and nooks with the wipes. These are like regular disinfecting wipes, but they’re formulated with baby-safe ingredients.
  3. Your pump parts are now clean, but I would recommend sterilizing them before you use them to pump again. This may not be possible, so if you’re pumping within a couple hours, it’s fine to use the parts again without sterilizing.
  4. As soon as possible, get access to a microwave. Medela quick clean micro-steam bags allow you to sterilize your parts and bottles in just 3 minutes. Place a couple spoonfuls of water and your clean parts and bottles into the sanitizer bags. Close the top of the bag and set the microwave on high for 3 minutes. Your parts will be steam sterilized inside the bag.
  5. After sterilizing and letting everything dry, you can use the micro-steam bags to store your now clean parts and to keep them separated from everything else in your tote bag. Micro-steam bags are reusable and can be used up to twenty times, so they’re economical and environmentally friendly too!

Can I clean a used or second-hand breast pump?

I cannot in good conscience recommend buying or cleaning a second-hand pump. While I know many women have bought a used pump without any problems, it only takes one bad encounter to endanger your baby’s life.

It goes without saying that when you buy a used pump online or from a garage sale or Freecycle, you’ll want to get a new collection kit, tubes, and breast flanges, because gross (right?). But the pump itself can still be contaminated.

In the best case scenario, the pump interior will only have a bit of dust or mold buildup due to moisture from the milk. However, if the previous user had serious illnesses, the pump can be infected with viruses that live in bodily fluids such as breast milk and blood like HIV, HTLV-I, CMV, or herpes. Even if the viruses are not alive anymore, it’s still a disgusting thought.

The only situation I where I could kinda see reusing someone else’s pump is if you know the person very well and know their health status, such as a close friend or family member. Under no circumstances should you buy a used breast pump from someone you don’t know!

If money is tight, then consider getting the Spectra S2, which is the only hospital-grade double electric breast pump you can get for under $200. Find out more about the Spectra breast pump in my review of the best breast pumps.

Caveat: You can safely use a second-hand breast pump if it is a hospital-grade pump. These are the types of pumps that hospitals rent out to new moms and they are designed to be used by multiple people. You’ll still need to buy new tubing and parts though. The chances of actually finding a hospital-grade breast pump for less than $1000, even second-hand, are slim, so this advice is probably useless.

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