Here's Why You Shouldn't Freak Out About the CDC's New Breast Pump Cleaning Guidelines

mom feeding infant after pumping
iStock.com/Pilin_Petunyia

As if pumping breast milk didn't already feel like a huge undertaking for moms who do it, now, the CDC has released new breast pump cleaning guidelines that definitely appear overwhelming at first glance. The new guidelines were released following an unnerving incident involving an infant who contracted the rare but serious Cronobacter infection after ingesting milk that was pumped with improperly cleaned equipment.

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"In response to the investigation, we reviewed existing resources for women about how to pump breast milk safely, but found little guidance that was detailed and based on the best available science," Dr. Anna Bowen, CDC medical officer, told Parents magazine. "As a result, CDC developed its own guidance."

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The key takeaway from the new guidelines: You should clean your parts after every single use. Pumping moms are also encouraged to wash their hands before handling pumped parts or pumped milk, have a dedicated brush and wash basin for the pumping parts (as opposed to cleaning them with the same sponge you use on your dishes), and air dry all the parts. You can also boil or steam to sanitize the equipment -- or run a sanitize cycle in your dishwasher. 

If all of these meticulous steps sound like they'd make your life even more impossible as a pumping mama, take heart. Mary Pat Forkin, MD, a family medicine doctor at Westfield Premier Physicians in Westfield, Indiana, boils the CDC's advice down to this: 

"It's pretty simple. Wash your hands, use disinfectant wipes on the pumps, don't let them sit in the sink, and clean the parts as soon as possible. If they can go in the dishwasher, that's great. Remember to rinse your brush. Store them in a clean and dry area. ... Any time a part comes in contact with breast milk, clean it and let it air dry."

Dr. Forkin also wants moms to know that there were special circumstances in the case of the Cronobacter infection. Babies have weak immune systems in general, but the infant who was infected also happened to be born prematurely, compounding the issue. (Also, the CDC only sees four to six cases of the infection a year.)

While she understands why moms might be alarmed by this news, Dr. Forkin notes, "Remember, millions of babies are breastfed every day." When it comes to the CDC's new rules of thumb, she says pumping moms can just think in terms of "basic common sense."

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Working Mother magazine reported another related tip via Bowen: "Women could consider buying multiple pump kits so they can use a clean kit for each pumping session at work or on the go, and then properly clean them once home." Of course, this is assuming you can afford additional kits -- or the purchase is covered by your insurance. 

What this all boils down to for pumping mamas: You don't have to stress yourself out about following the new guidelines to a T. But doing your best to follow the basics here could be a safe bet for you and your LO.

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