Whether you’re a stay at home mum or a working one, having time to do it all remains a constant struggle for Singaporean mummies.
And we know just how much of a chore pumping milk can be. It is a three-step process that involves pumping milk, storing it, and then cleaning your breast pump. However, do take note that you should never, ever compromise on thoroughly cleaning your breast pump. The consequences can lead to an unwanted tragedy.
An Unfortunate Incident
The unfortunate case of the preterm infant who contracted the rare but serious Cronobacter infection further affirms this.
At about three weeks old, the baby girl who was born at 29 weeks, and displayed signs of a severe infection. Tests showed that she had Cronobacter sakazaii growing in her spinal fluid. This led to her developing severe meningitis. Although she survived, she is left with profound developmental delays due to the destroyed brain tissue.
So how did they find out the cause? The rare bacterial infection that was found in the baby is usually linked to powdered infant formula. But the baby never consumed any formula milk. The research team analysed all the possible food, environmental and medication exposures that the infant had and eventually deduced the shocking cause.
Cronobacter was found only in the breast pump used at home and in the milk samples that had been pumped at home. It was also found in the kitchen sink of the home.
The mum reportedly left her pump parts in soapy water and would rinse them hours later. The water could’ve bred germs. This was illustrated by the samples of bacteria found on the pump parts, sink and the milk pumped at home.
Leaving your breast pump unwashed breeds bacteria!
Please do not take this opportunity to judge the mum. She was trying to do the best for her baby. It’s likely the lack of knowledge and not lethargy that made her overlook the danger of the cleaning process.
It’s rare for breast milk to get contaminated. In fact, this is the first time such an infection has been linked to expressed breast milk. The aggravating factor here could’ve been that the infant was premature, and her immune system was still developing.
There are all sorts of bacteria in human milk even before it is expressed from the breast. However, full-term newborn babies acquire the bacteria from their mothers and don’t usually end up with an infection.
This extremely sad incident touched the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) deeply and led them to wonder if mums have adequate support and information for cleaning their breast pumps.
Do you need to sterilize breast pump after each use and do you do it correctly?
In their investigation, the CDC found that there was insufficient guidance and resources for women on how to clean their breast pumps. In order to dispel any myths and provide proper, detailed guidelines for cleaning your breast pumps right, the CDC has released new guidelines on breast pump cleaning.
How To Sterilise Breast Pump?
The golden rule – Always Wash
If you are cleaning your breast pump after every other pumping session, or you are following hacks such as keeping the parts of your pump in the fridge between pumping sessions, we urge you to stop doing so immediately.
If you are at work, cleaning your breast pump thoroughly and after every pumping session is impossible. What you can do is have two sets of pumping accessories, so you can change to a clean set and do the thorough cleaning when you have more time. That’s possibly your best alternative.
You might want to consider having a spare pump at your workstation, to alternate and make it possible to delay a thorough cleaning.
The CDC states that you should be washing all parts of your pump after every pumping session. When your infant is less than three months old, is premature or has a weakened immune system, this is the safest bet.
And it’s not just your pump that you should be washing. Please remember to thoroughly wash your hands before handling the breast pump or milk.
2. Sharing isn’t always caring
When it comes to cleaning your breast pump, there shouldn’t be any kind of sharing. This not only extends to the apparatus but also to the brush and sponge that you use for cleaning the pump. So keep cleaning equipment separate for the milk bottles and pump in the kitchen.
If possible, have a dedicated washbasin for washing your pump, as the regular kitchen sink may have a host of germs lurking around unbeknownst to you.
To be extra safe, for you can never be too safe, boil or steam the parts in a sanitiser. It will also be a good time to invest in a steriliser.
So, do you need to sterilize breast pump after each use? Yes, absolutely!
Second-Hand Pumps – Yay or Nay?
If you are sharing or purchasing a second-hand breast pump, the pump should use a closed-system pump. This has a barrier between the milk, the collection kit and the pump mechanism. This prevents contamination by mould, bacteria and viruses.
Open-system pumps do not have this bacteria and that makes it impossible to completely sterilise the inside of such a pump. This is for hygiene purposes.
Furthermore, you would never know if the person who sold you the pump had some contagious disease, and left traces of it in the pump motor, so please do not make yourself susceptible to such risks.
Wipes are good, no?
Quick-clean wipes sold in the market may promise you anti-bacterial cleaning but they don’t. So stop cleaning your breast pump with wet wipes. I repeat, stop.
Wipes are for babies, not cleaning your breast pump!
Why? Simply because these wipes cannot reach all surfaces of the pump, so your cleaning won’t be thorough enough.
How To Sterilise Breast Pump: CDC’s New Guidelines
- Wash your hands thoroughly before handling your breast pump; wipe only the outside of your pump with disinfectant wipes
- Disassemble all your pump parts after every use and rinse them under running water; don’t place them directly in the sink
- As soon as time permits, clean your pump parts with hot, soapy water with a brush solely dedicated to cleaning your pump
- Scrub the parts well
- Air-dry the parts and don’t use a towel for the towel itself might harbour germs
- Clean and air dry your brush as well
- Store the parts in a clean and dry area only after they are completely dry
- Chill the milk immediately after pumping
- Clean the sink that you use to wash your pump
- If you’re using the dishwasher, do hot water and heated drying cycle or a sanitising cycle
On this note, apart from cleaning your breast pump regularly; you might want to consider changing some parts, such as the tubing and valve membranes, once every few months.
These parts aren’t necessarily expensive but they can get tricky to clean. The tubing tends to trap moisture and mums often complain that they see condensation in the tubing.
Tip: While storing your milk, disconnect the tubes and leave your pump running for a few minutes. This helps to dry any condensation that remains in the machine.
Don’t let the cleaning process deter you from expressing milk for your precious baby.
On a concluding note, mums, cleaning your pump can be a chore, we agree, but do not let this deter you from expressing milk for your baby. When you return to work, or if you spend time away from your baby, pumping is crucial to maintain your milk supply.
We are sure you already know the multitude of benefits that breast milk contains, so continue doing what you have to for the best of your child.
Mums are amazing by sheer virtue of how much they go through for their precious little ones.
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