How to clean a breast pump

While breast pumps are a convenient to use, they are also a pain to clean properly. The pump parts are full off nooks, crannies, and small holes that you have to clean and sterilize after each use. Failure to properly clean your pump parts can make your baby sick and spoil your freshly pumped milk.
The biggest contaminants are:

  • spoiled milk leftover from previous pumping sessions
  • bacteria and mold growth

The right way to clean your breast pump parts and tubing

I know a lot of people just throw out their instruction manuals, but you should probably read it, or at the very least read the section about cleaning and disassembling the tubing and parts. Since each breast pump has different disassembly instructions, I’ll just go over the basics of washing and sterilizing the pump parts and tubes. The specifics are up to you!

  • The first step is to disassemble every part, including the valves, breast shield, connector rings, and collection bottles. It may be tempting to just leave them attached and just to clean the parts with visible milk, but this is a recipe for disaster and contamination!
  • Since breast milk is fatty, you will want to soak the parts in warm soapy water. Use a brush dedicated to cleaning only your baby’s bottles and your breast pump. Do not use a regular dish sponge as they can harbor bacteria and food particles that can contaminate your pump parts! Scrub out the parts thoroughly and rinse with warm water.
  • Let the parts air dry on a bottle drying rack or a clean paper towel. Cover the parts with a clean paper towel or dishcloth until next use to prevent dust buildup. Do not use the paper towel or dishcloth to wipe the parts as they can introduce bacteria and small dust particles.
  • While the pump itself cannot be washed, you should use a disinfecting wipe or an alcohol pad to wipe it down at least twice a week.

What if there’s water or milk in the pump tubing? How to clean breast pump tubes.

Skip this step for closed-system pumps as moisture and milk should not be getting into the tubing.

If your pump is an open-system pump, examine the tubing to see if there is condensation in the tubes. If there is, then you will need to disconnect the tube from the breast shield and run let the pump until the interior of the tube is clear and dry.

Milk inside the tubing is a bigger problem. Disconnect the tube from the pump and run warm soapy water through the tube. Then run rubbing alcohol through the tube to disinfect it. Finally run clear tap water through the tube to rinse out the alcohol. Dry out the tubing either by blowing through it with a hairdryer or by hooking it up to your pump and letting it run without connecting the breast shield.

How do I sterilize my breast pump parts?

Just like baby bottles and teats, any parts that come into contact with breast milk will need to be sterilized. Sterilizing breast pump parts is similar to sterilizing bottles.
The most common method is to boil the parts in boiling water (at least 272 degrees Fahrenheit or at least 133 degrees Celsius) for 10 minutes.

If this seems like too much work, then you can use a microwave steam sterilizer and just pop everything in the microwave on high for about 3 minutes.

While it is rare, some breast pump parts cannot withstand the high temperatures of boiling water and will melt. In these cases, you can use sterilizer tablets after cleaning your parts.
After sterilizing the breast pump parts, only touch the parts with clean hands and try not to touch the inside surfaces with your hands.

Medela Cleaning Wipes – How to Clean Your Breast Pump When You’re Away From Home

While it’s easy to clean and wash your pump parts when you’re away from home, what about if you’re pumping while you’re at work or while you’re traveling?

Tips for working moms: how to express breast milk at work

That’s where Medela’s quick clean wipes come in. They’re like other disinfecting wipes, but specially formulated to be safe for use on pump parts and bottles and do not leave behind a residue of chemicals.

If you find yourself unable to wash your pump parts, then you can use these wipes to wipe away breast milk and residue until you can get home and clean them.

If you think the quick clean wipes are a great find, then wait until you hear about Medela’s quick clean micro-steam bags. After you wipe down your breast pump parts, you still have to worry about sterilizing everything, especially if you’re away from home and have to pump multiple times. Well, these steam sterilizing bags are like portable microwave sterilizers. All you have to do is add some water, throw all the pump parts into the bag, zip it up and toss everything into the microwave. You’ll have clean and sterilized parts after three minutes, it’s that easy! Each sanitizer bag is reusable for up to 20 times and it’s also a great way to store and keep your pump parts clean when you’re pumping at work.

How do I clean a second-hand pump?

While it’s tempting to buy a used breast pump from ebay or craigslist to save some money, it can be a gamble with your baby’s health.

Breast pumps, especially open-system pumps like the Medela Pump in Style Advance, are a single-user personal health item, like toothbrushes.

While the parts and accessories like the breast shield, valves, and tubes are replaceable, the pump itself is not and they can be full of mold, bacteria, and possibly body fluids in the case of open-system pumps.

The only pumps that can be used by multiple people are hospital grade pumps, and those can cost thousands of dollars.

The standard breast pump for home use can transmit viruses such as herpes, HIV, and hepatitis. Please reconsider if you’re purchasing a breast pump from a stranger. If you cannot afford a new electric breast pump, check with your health insurance provider to see which models they cover. While the model they cover might perform poorly, it will still work until you’ve saved enough money for a better pump.

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