Breast Pump, accessories, and milk bottles with tote, ready to be cleaned

Thoroughly cleaning all your breast pump parts is the best protection for you and your baby. Here’s an easy step-by-step guide so you can rest easy after washing up

Breastfeeding is beautiful, but sometimes it gets messy, and the truth is germs are a very real concern. Bacteria can grow in milk residue left on pump parts, even in trace amounts, so it’s crucial to clean everything carefully and thoroughly.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has a helpful step-by-step guide of best practices, but in the real world, you won’t always be able to scrub surfaces or pop your pump parts in a dishwasher after each session. For moms who sometimes have limited time for pumping, let alone clean-up, or don’t have the space to lay out and air-dry their parts, it’s still possible to thoroughly disinfect your accessories safely. Real moms know that between the perfect and the perfectly good, there are always a few life hacks that can help get any job done right. Here are our tips from the real pros — real moms who know.

Before Pumping

The CDC recommends washing your hands, inspecting pump parts for any damage, discoloration or mold while you assemble, and wiping down dials, power switches and all surrounding surfaces with disinfectant wipes. These steps ensure that nothing in the environment—dirt, germs or spills—contaminates your pump and makes its way into your milk.

Real talk: It’s most important to wash your hands, since they come in contact with the parts as you assemble them. Give your pump parts a thorough once-over and wipe-down when you have more breathing room, like at home in the morning if you’ll be pumping at work, and then store everything in clean zip-top bags. Keep a backup set of parts on hand in case you notice any tears or mold, so you can quickly swap them out. Disinfectant wipes are handy for a quick swipe over the surfaces around where you pump.

After Pumping

The CDC says to store milk in closed bottles or milk storage bags, label with date and time, and immediately place in the freezer, fridge or cooler with ice packs. Then wipe down the pump and surrounding surfaces and clean all pump parts right away, either in the dishwasher or by hand. Cleaning ASAP reduces the risk of germ growth in the milk that remains on the parts.

Real talk: Milk can safely sit at room temperature for three to four hours, and a cooler bag with ice packs will do the job for up to 24 hours if you can’t access a fridge. If possible, rinse each part under running water. If you can’t, wipe all parts with disinfectant after pumping and stash them in a zip-top bag until you can thoroughly clean them at home, and keep extra parts on hand and so you can use a clean set each time. You can also store the pump parts in a refrigerator between sessions to avoid contamination. Ashland Health can provide backup accessories at no cost so you have more than one set of pump parts on hand.

Cleaning Your Pump

The CDC recommends cleaning pump parts in a designated wash basin instead of directly in the sink. Disassemble all parts so every surface can be cleaned completely, and scrub everything with soap, hot water, and a brush reserved only for baby items. Rinse with clean water and allow to air dry on a clean towel.

If your pump parts are dishwasher-safe (check your manual!) you should use soap and set your dishwasher to the hot water plus heated drying cycle. Put all small parts in a closed basket or mesh laundry bag on the top rack so they don’t get lost or damaged, remove with clean hands and air-dry completely on a clean towel if they aren’t fully dried.

Real talk: If you can’t do this every time you pump and rely on quick fixes like extra accessories and disinfectant wipes, be sure to follow these steps to properly clean everything when you get home. As an extra step, sanitize with boiling water, microwave steam bags or with your dishwasher’s sanitize setting.

Fitting regular pumping sessions into your busy life can be really, really hard, but keeping your baby’s food clean and safe is worth it. Remember you’re entitled to a clean, private space to pump in your workplace, and that prep and clean-up counts as an essential part of your pumping time. Our Workplace Bill of Rights can help you understand and advocate for your legally protected pumping time. If your baby doesn’t have specific health concerns, rest easy knowing small workarounds are okay—the most important thing is making breastfeeding work for you and your baby.