Breast Pump Maintenance

Breast Pump Maintenance

Most expectant parents think of breastfeeding as an act that takes place, well, at the breast. To be sure, you’ll spend plenty of time with your baby latched onto you if you decide to breastfeed! But pumping milk for later use is an important part of breastfeeding for many moms. Working mothers can’t be present for every feeding. Even stay-at-home moms may pump milk for an evening away from the baby. In some cases, lactation consultants may recommend pumping milk to help resolve milk supply issues.

All of this is to say, if you plan to breastfeed, make a plan to pump. Understanding how to properly care for pumping equipment can make it easier to meet your breastfeeding goals.

After Each Use

Any part of the pump that comes in contact with your breastmilk needs to be cleaned after each use. Rinse the breast shield, valve and membrane, and connectors to get rid of excess milk, and then clean thoroughly with hot, soapy water. It’s important to break down any residue left from the milk (you’ll notice a greasy feeling if you don’t). Fat residue can go rancid and contaminate fresh milk if pump parts aren’t cleaned properly.

Treat bottles the same way. You may need to try a few different brushes to find something that can reach every spot inside the bottle. Tip: Pay special attention to the highest level your milk reaches. Stored breastmilk tends to separate, with the fat rising to the top. It’s still safe for your baby to drink–just swirl the bottle as you warm it to re-mix the milk–but you can end up with a greasy “ring” where the fat separated.

Daily or Every Few Days

The bad news about using a breast pump is that it’s pretty much impossible to fully sterilize the equipment, even by boiling parts. The good news is the FDA says you don’t necessarily have to. As long as you’re the only one using the pump, cleaning parts thoroughly at home sanitizes them enough for safe use.

Depending on the brand and model of your pump, you may have a few options for deep cleaning equipment. Ideally, you’ll do this every day (make it part of your after-dinner dishes routine). If that’s not feasible, check with a lactation consultant, but it may be okay for you to sanitize parts every other day, as long as you’re rigorous about cleaning after each use. Double-check the instructions on your pump model, but these are the most common ways to sanitize pump equipment:

  • Put dishwasher-safe equipment on the top rack and run with your other dishes.
  • Disassemble pump parts, heat enough water to cover the parts completely, and boil for 10 minutes. One mom recommended putting a few glass marbles in the water. The marbles will rattle if the water’s boiled down too far, so you don’t accidentally melt your equipment.
  • Use a microwavable steam bag provided by the pump supplier. Confirm use with the instructions. If your microwave wattage is 1100 watts or higher, the timing may be different. The bags are often reusable, so check how many times the instructions say you can use the same bag.

As Needed

You may have noticed we haven’t mentioned cleaning the tubes that connect pump equipment to an electric pump. These don’t come into contact with your milk, so they don’t need the same frequent cleaning. If you notice condensation, just attach the tubes to the machine and run it for a few minutes so the airflow dries the condensation.

If you do get milk on or in the tubing, rinse by letting cool water flow through the tubes. Clean with warm, soapy water, not hot, since the tubes are delicate and can be damaged by heat. A microwave steam bag may also have special instructions for sanitizing tubing.

Check the valves and membranes for tears if you see milk in the tubes. Milk really shouldn’t end up there, so seeing any can indicate another part of the pump needs to be replaced.

Jessica Sillers
Jessica Sillers is a parenting and finance writer whose work has been featured in Pregnancy & Newborn, Headspace, and more. As a new mom herself, she’s passionate about helping other parents find the community and support they need. When she’s not writing, she loves spending time with her family, reading, and hiking.

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