Frequently Asked Questions on Breast Pump Cleaning

Breast Pump Equipment Cleaning Methods

1. Should I use a brush to scrub breast pump kit parts?

CDC’s breast pump cleaning guidance recommends following the pump manufacturer’s instructions about whether to use a brush to scrub the pump parts. Scrubbing with a brush may damage some breast pump parts but not others. Read the manufacturer’s instructions before scrubbing your pump parts with a brush.

2. How do I clean hard-to-reach areas of breast pumps such as valves and membranes?

If the manufacturer’s instructions allow for the use of a brush, use a small brush with soap and warm water to get inside the hard-to-reach areas of breast pump parts. Otherwise, consider washing these parts in the top rack of the dishwasher (place small parts inside a closed-top basket) or boil disassembled parts for 5 minutes. Some parts are best washed by hand, so always refer to the manufacturer’s instructions to avoid damaging certain parts while cleaning them.

3. Are certain kinds of soap more effective in cleaning breast pump parts?

You can use any soap intended for washing dishes to clean pump parts, including dishwasher soap if you are using a dishwasher. Do not use antibacterial soap because it can contain additives and chemicals that may not be safe for regular, daily use to wash breast pump parts. In addition, there isn’t enough science to show that over-the-counter (OTC) antibacterial soaps are better at preventing illness than washing with plain soap and water. Rinse pump parts thoroughly after washing to remove all soap residue.

4. Can I use wet wipes to clean my breast pump between pumping sessions?

Some breast pump manufacturers make hygienic wipes specifically for cleaning breast pumps and breast pump parts. These wipes may be convenient when you don’t have access to soap and water. According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), even if these wipes are used, breast pump parts that come into contact with breast milk should still be cleaned using dishwashing soap and warm water before using them again.

Sanitization

1. My manufacturer’s instructions say I can’t put certain parts of my breast pump in boiling water. Does CDC have any tips on how I can sanitize these parts?

There are three ways to sanitize pump parts: steaming, placing in boiling water, or using a dishwasher with a sanitize setting (or hot water and a heated drying cycle if your dishwasher does not have a specific sanitize setting). Follow the breast pump manufacturer’s instructions on how to best clean and sanitize your pump parts. For items that cannot be sanitized, thoroughly clean and inspect them regularly to make sure they are in good condition (no cracks, chips, signs of wear and tear, or other defects). Replace them when needed. For more information, please see our web page How to Keep Your Breast Pump Kit Clean.

2. Is CDC’s guidance on sanitizing breast pump parts applicable to hospitals?

Healthcare facilities are in the best position to determine the specific pump hygiene practices that will be safest and most feasible in their settings. However, daily sanitizing is always the safest choice whether a breast pump is used at home or in a hospital.

Infant Feeding Items

1. Are used or secondhand baby bottles safe to use?

Most used or secondhand bottles are safe to use if they are in good condition (no cracks, chips, signs of wear and tear, or other defects) and cleaned properly. For extra germ removal, sanitize bottles by boiling them for several minutes or putting them in the dishwasher on the sanitize setting. Always inspect bottles before each use and throw them away at the first sign of damage or wear. Do not use antique lead crystal baby bottles because the lead can get into your baby’s milk and cause lead poisoning.

2. When should I replace bottle nipples and pacifiers?

Bottle nipples and pacifiers break down over time. You should replace them for each child. Most pacifier manufacturers recommend replacing pacifiers every few weeks for hygiene reasons, even if you sanitize them regularly. Similarly, most manufacturers of bottle nipples recommend replacing the nipples anywhere from every 6 weeks to every 3 months. Always inspect bottle nipples and pacifiers before each use and throw them away at the first sign of damage or weakness.

Storage

1. Is it OK if I store breast pump parts in the refrigerator between pump sessions while at work?

The CDC and most breast pump manufacturers recommend cleaning pump parts thoroughly after every use to help protect babies from germs. If you cannot clean your pump parts thoroughly after each pumping session, you can rinse and then refrigerate pump parts for a few hours between uses to help slow the growth of bacteria. It’s important to understand that refrigeration does not stop bacteria from growing. No studies have shown whether rinsing or wiping and then storing pump parts in the refrigerator between pumping sessions effectively limits the growth of bacteria and is a safe alternative to washing between use every time. Infants have become ill from contaminated milk due to bacteria growing on pump parts that were not cleaned properly. Please see CDC’s fact sheet [PDF – 2 pages] for best practices on how to keep your breast pump kit clean.

If you choose to refrigerate pump parts between pumping sessions, rinse the parts first to remove milk residue, if possible, and then keep the parts in a sealed bag to prevent contamination. If rinsing is not possible, wipe milk residue off the parts with a clean, disposable paper towel. If your infant is younger than 2 months or has a compromised immune system, proper cleaning of pump parts after each use is especially important.

2. Is it true that germs can grow quickly in breast milk or breast milk residue that remains on pump parts?

Harmful germs can grow in breast milk (or its residues) and you need to disinfect your pump properly. Infants have become ill from contaminated milk due to bacteria grown on pump parts that were not cleaned properly. Proper cleaning of breast pump parts and feeding items, and appropriate storage of milk, can help preserve the nutrient and protective properties of breast milk, and reduce the risk of introducing germs to an infant. Thus, cleaning pump parts thoroughly after every use is the best way to help protect babies from harmful germs that could be on pump parts, especially for babies who were born preterm or have other health conditions.

Breast milk contains components that protect the milk itself from contamination with germs, after it has been expressed. This ability of breast milk to prevent the growth of germs is referred to as the bacteriostatic capacity of breast milk. Breast milk is bactericidal in that it can also actively reduce some of these germs. However, the bactericidal properties decrease with time, even under refrigerated conditions, and can differ by milk collection container type. There are also many different types of germs that could come in contact with pump parts. Some germs grow more quickly than others and the bactericidal capacity of breast milk is not consistent among all types of germs (e.g., Cronobacter sakazakii). Ultimately, breast milk is a nutrient-rich liquid that, despite its bactericidal properties, can still grow harmful bacteria.

Page last reviewed: June 15, 2022