Every September is Baby Safety Month and in honor of all things healthy and clean, we spoke with neonatologist and lactation specialist Dr. Jessica Madden about breast pumps and how to keep them sanitized and safe. Dr. Madden is also the medical director for Aeroflow Breastpumps so she knows what she is talking about.
Women will pump for a number of reasons whether they're working and need to leave milk with the baby or pumping to allow someone else to feed or they may want to give the benefit of breastmilk without actually breastfeeding. Whatever the reason, breast pumps need to be kept in perfect working order. Knowing the ins and outs of breast milk storage is also important
Dr. Madden covers it all! Keep reading for professional advice on picking a breast pump, keeping it clean, and storing your hard earned breast milk properly.
BabyGaga (BG): What are the most easily avoidable contamination issues with a breast pump
Dr. Jessica Madden (DM): Forgetting to wash your hands before and after handling your pump and breast milk. Forgetting to wipe down your pump and counter/surface area with disinfecting wipes before and after every use. Improper cleaning and handling of detachable pump parts (flanges, valves, membranes, and connectors) after each pumping session. Neglecting to sanitize pump parts. Per the CDC it is especially important to sanitize one time per day if you are pumping for a preemie or infant with a compromised immune system.
BG: How often should a breast pump be cleaned? What are some risks if a breast pump is not maintained?
DM: A breast pump should be inspected and cleaned before and after every use. This includes the power knob, dials, and surface that the pump is sitting on. Detachable pump parts need to be disassembled, rinsed, cleaned in warm soapy water, and air dried after every use. If a pump is not properly maintained it can easily become contaminated with bacteria or mold. These harmful organisms can contaminate your breast milk, which can make your baby sick. This also decreases the life of your pump. The tubing needs to be inspected on a regular basis. You need to discard and replace tubing if it has milk in it or it looks discolored, as this may be due to mold.
BG: What are some tips on how to easily clean a breast pump?
DM: Keep a package of disinfecting wipes with your pump so that you can always wipe down the body of the breast pump (including knobs and dials) and surface area before and after every use. If possible, have multiple sets of pump parts so that you can clean all of them at the end of the day and do not have to worry about cleaning pump parts after each session. When I pumped at work I would rinse my pump parts after use and then store in large, sealed Ziploc bags. I would then wash them in the evening after I got home and let them air dry overnight – this way they would be clean, dry, and ready to go for my next workday.
Sometimes during overnight work shifts, I would rinse off my parts with hot water, sanitize with microwave steam bags, and then let them air dry on stacks of clean paper towels. It can be a great help to ask your partner to clean your pump parts for you at the end of a workday so that you have extra time to hold and snuggle your baby once you’re home! Be sure to read your breast pump owners’ manual, as some pump parts can be placed in the top rack of the dishwasher for cleaning and sanitizing.
BG: How long is pumped breast milk good for? Where is the best place to store it?
DM: Pumped milk is good for up to 24 hours in a cooler, 4-5 days in a refrigerator, 6 months in a regular freezer, and up to 12 months in a deep freezer. The best place to store your freshly pumped milk is in a refrigerator. Be sure to transport it in a cooler container with ice packs until it can be refrigerated. Freshly pumped milk can be left out at room temperature for up to 4 hours after pumping and fed directly to your baby.
BG: Where is the best place to store bottles and bags of milk?
DM: In either the back of your refrigerator or freezer-this location helps it to maintain a constant temperature. Breast milk should never be stored in the door of a refrigerator. Be sure to label each milk storage bag or bottle with the date, time, and amount of milk in the container. If milk is frozen in a bag it can be difficult to tell the actual volume of milk in the bag until it’s thawed. Storing in freezer bags in smaller volumes, i.e. 2-4 oz. at a time, can lead to less waste of thawed milk.
BG: What should moms look for in a breast pump? What are some must-have features?
DM: Moms need to make sure that their pump matches the unique needs of their mother-baby dyad. For most pumping moms a double electric pump is necessary. Moms who are pumping and establishing and maintaining milk supplies for preemies (who might not be able to feed directly at the breast for a long time) should rent a multi-user, hospital-grade pump, at least in the beginning. If a mom is trying to pump while taking care of and running around after another young child (ren), a portable hands-free pump with a rechargeable battery pack might be the best way to go. Moms should invest in the highest quality pump they can afford. Thus it’s important to research all options that one’s health insurance may provide before making a decision as to which pump to purchase.
BG: How often should they be pumping to maintain milk production?
DM: Assuming an established milk supply, mothers should pump every 2-3 hours during the day, and have at least one pumping session or breastfeeding session in the middle of the night. Moms should not go longer than a 5-6-hour stretch between pumping or breastfeeding at night. An average pumping session lasts 15-20 minutes. If moms are exclusively pumping they will need to pump at least 8-10 times per day for the first few months until at full milk production (which is usually between 25 to 30 oz. total per day).
Many exclusive pumping moms are able to drop at least one pumping session per 24 hour period once they are at full milk production. During a typical 8-9-hour workday, mothers should aim to pump 3 times: mid-morning, during lunch break, and mid-afternoon. Some working mothers pump during their commutes to be able to fit in enough pumping sessions—I personally did this when I pumped when I drove to and from work after having my 2nd and 3rd babies during my medical training.
BG: Where should a breast pump be stored? Can pumps be shared?
DM: A breast pump should be stored in the carrying case that it comes in. It’s important that the pump carrying case is cleaned and wiped down on a regular basis. As a rule of thumb, breast pumps are made for single use and should not be shared or re-sold. This is because most breast pumps have a risk of motor contamination with breast milk. Hospital-grade rental pumps (aka multi-user pumps) can be shared because they have a “closed” system with barriers and filters that prevent the backflow of breast milk into the motor system.
If sharing a multi-user breast pump in the work setting it is essential to provide one’s own tubing for every pumping session (to prevent contamination with breast milk) and to be sure to not forget to disinfect the shared pump before and after every use.
BG: Is there anything else you'd like to share or add for all pumping moms?
DM: Breast pumping should never hurt. If you are experiencing discomfort with pumping it’s essential to get help from a lactation consultant, or pump specialist, ASAP. One of the most common causes of pain is improperly sized flanges. Pumped milk should not have a foul odor when thawed. If in doubt about the smell of your breast milk, toss it out. Thawed breast milk should be used within 24 hours. If there is any leftover pumped milk from a feeding, it needs to be consumed within 2 hours. It is dangerous to store and/or refreeze previously consumed milk due to bacterial growth.
Thank you so much for the helpful tips and friendly reminder to keep our breast pumps clean! It is definitely a long road of pumping that takes a lot of dedication. Happy pumping!