When you can’t feed your baby directly, expressed breast milk is simply the best food to give to your baby. Learning when and how to clean and sanitise breast pump parts between uses is vital to ensure your milk is safe to drink. The good news is, if you master the basics of cleaning and sanitising your pumping equipment, your milk should be safe to keep in the fridge for up to five days or in the freezer for up to nine months – see our guide to storing, freezing and thawing breast milk for more advice.
Before you pump
All the parts of your breast pump that come into contact with your breasts or breast milk must be completely clean and dry (see below). But it’s not just your equipment that needs to be clean when expressing milk – so do you! Before every pumping session, remember to wash your hands thoroughly with soap for at least 20 seconds, then rinse them and dry with a clean towel. There’s no need to wash your breasts, unless they have cream or cosmetics on them that aren’t compatible with breastfeeding1 – if in doubt, check the packaging. Many lanolin-based nipple creams are fine to leave on while you express.
Tips for cleaning your breast pump equipment after use
After you’ve expressed, always wash any pumping equipment, such as bottles, valves and breast shields, that have touched your breasts or milk and then dry thoroughly so they’re ready for your next session.
- First, rinse off your pumping equipment with drinking-quality water (at around 20 °C/68 °F), to remove any milk proteins left behind.
- Then wash all parts with warm water (approximately 30 °C/86 °F) and washing-up liquid.
- Rinse the parts again with drinking-quality water for 15 to 20 seconds.
- Alternatively, you can wash the pump parts in the top rack of your dishwasher using your usual detergent. Smaller parts can be placed in the cutlery section. Make sure breast milk bottles, breast shields and teats are facing downwards.
- Dry the equipment with a clean cloth or leave to air-dry on a clean tea towel.
- Don’t forget to check your breast pump instruction manual for specific cleaning guidelines.
How to sanitise your breast pump equipment
At least once a day, you’ll need to sanitise your pumping parts after washing them. You’ll also need to do this if your breast pump equipment is brand new or hasn’t been used for a while.
Sanitising means that the equipment has been thoroughly cleaned of germs and bacteria. You may often hear people talking about ‘sterilising’ baby equipment or see products advertised as ‘sterilisers’, but sanitising is a more accurate term. It is impossible to completely sterilise equipment at home, even if you boil it, as our homes are not totally sterile environments. But sanitising ensures equipment is perfectly safe for you and your baby.
Every product is different, so make sure you follow the sanitising method recommended by your pump manufacturer, but generally you’ll probably use one of these methods:
- Boil. Place your pump parts in a large pan and cover with water. Bring to the boil, then keep boiling for at least five minutes, making sure all the parts stay submerged.
- Microwave. Put the pump parts in a microwaveable sanitising bag or microwave steriliser and follow the manufacturer’s instructions for use.
- Steam. Use an electric steam steriliser, making sure bottles, breast shields and teats face downwards inside it.
- Sterilising fluid or tablets. Some people choose to use a cold-water sterilising solution. If you do, make sure all parts are submerged, with no trapped air bubbles, for at least 30 minutes (and discard the solution after 24 hours). Alternatively, you could use a sanitising spray.
Once you’ve sanitised your breast pump equipment, allow to dry off thoroughly before use:
- Remove the pump parts from the pan, sanitising bag or steriliser using clean hands or clean tongs. Be careful not to scald yourself!
- Shake off any excess water, then dry with a clean cloth or allow to air-dry.
- Place the parts on a sanitised surface or in a sanitised storage container.
Washing your pumping equipment after use, and sanitising it thoroughly at least once a day, will ensure your breast milk is safe to store for your baby.