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CDC Ramps Up Guidelines For Cleaning Your Breast Pump

Baby bottles soaking in soapy water in a basin in the sink
There’s a good reason to follow this painstaking process.

Bearing in mind that breast milk is essentially liquid gold, you’re probably taking a lot of precautions to keep your breast pump clean. But also bearing in mind that pumping often happens when you’re away from home, it can be difficult to thoroughly sanitize every part. Still, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is now encouraging mothers to clean breast pumps between every single use—and it’s breaking down exactly how and why to do so.

The guidelines, released on Friday, explain that “keeping the parts of your pump clean is critical, because germs can grow quickly in breast milk or breast milk residue that remains on pump parts.” Largely because babies don’t have fully-developed immune systems, these germs can pose a risk of infection. And that risk is even higher when a baby is premature.

A case involving a premature baby is exactly what’s sparking these new guidelines. A baby born at 29 weeks contracted a rare infection called Cronobacter at 3 weeks old, leading to sepsis-like symptoms, spastic cerebral palsy and developmental delays. After a thorough investigation, the CDC found traces of the bacteria in the mother’s breast pump parts, breast milk and sink. The scariest part? The mother said she typically left the pump’s parts to soak in soapy water for up to five hours. But she didn’t scrub or sanitized—she only rinsed and air-dried afterwards.

Now, the CDC is calling for…

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