But the C.D.C. is not calling for any changes to its recommended best practices for cleaning pump parts, which the agency says can either be done by hand or in the dishwasher, if the pump kit manufacturer recommends it.
“Families should always break down their pump parts prior to washing,” said Meghan Devine, a registered nurse, lactation consultant and clinical supervisor for the Lactation Program at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. “They should wash their pump parts in hot, soapy water and rinse thoroughly between every pumping session. Families should also sanitize the pump parts once daily by boiling the parts, using a sanitizing microwave bag or using the sanitizing setting on their dishwasher.”
The C.D.C.’s guidelines provide further nuance — noting, for instance, that pump parts should be thoroughly air dried if they are washed by hand (rather than with a dish towel). And that caregivers should wash their hands before they remove clean pump parts from the dishwasher.
Though some parents quickly wipe down their pump parts and store them in the refrigerator between pumping sessions when they are pressed for time, the agency notes that no studies have shown whether that effectively limits the growth of bacteria.
Many doctors acknowledge that the process of pumping milk and cleaning pump parts is time-consuming and onerous, and that it can be particularly difficult for women who have limited time to express milk (because they’re at work, for example) or who are exclusively pumping and must repeat the process every few hours.
“We have to help mothers find realistic strategies to keep their equipment as clean as possible, but also be able to practically keep up with the schedule of pumping,” said Dr. Lisa Hammer, a pediatrician and lactation consultant with Trinity Health IHA Medical Group in Michigan. She often advises her patients to get a second set of pump parts if possible, and noted that some insurers will cover it.
The doctors interviewed for this story sought to reassure parents that, despite the seriousness of the new C.D.C. report, these types of bacterial infections are rare, and that the benefits of breast milk far outweigh the risks of infection.
“This is an unusual situation, and very tragic of course, but as mothers in our society where we don’t have the village anymore, we’re burdened with feeling like we need to be with our babies all the time, and feeling like we need to be pumping our milk when we’re not with them,” Dr. Kellams said. “We’re all doing the best that we can.”