Infant Illness Causes CDC to Issue Breast Pump Cleaning Guidelines

The CDC has issued new breast pump cleaning guidelines following the life-threatening illness of a preterm infant.The CDC has issued new breast pump cleaning guidelines following the life-threatening illness of a preterm infant.

If you mention the words tubes, valves, membranes, and flanges to most people, they would think you were referring a complex machine.

These are the parts of a breast pump that many moms know all too well. If you are one of the 85% of breastfeeding moms who have pumped her breast milk, you will likely agree that the most cumbersome part of the process is cleaning the pump.

With the plethora of things new moms already have to worry about, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) just added another. In response to the case of an infant who contracted the serious, although rare, Cronobacter infection, the CDC has issued new breast pump cleaning guidelines.

The new guidelines come following a case report published this week in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.  According to the report, a female infant was born prematurely at 29 weeks’ gestation in April 2016.  After three weeks of an uneventful stay in the NICU, she developed an illness.  Test results revealed that she was infected with the Cronobacter sakazakii bacteria.

Consequently, the baby now has cerebral palsy and developmental delay. She required a shunt in her brain and depends on a tube in her stomach to feed her.

Related:  Texas Teacher Resigns After Being Refused Time to Pump Breastmilk

Cronobacter is a group of germs that are found naturally in the environment and can live in dry foods and teas.  While anyone can get sick from Cronobacter, the bacteria is especially dangerous to newborn babies.  Although serious, the illness is so rare that the CDC only gets reports of 4-6 cases a year.

The mom reported soaking her breast milk collection kit in soapy water for up to five hours after pumping, without sanitizing or scrubbing.  She then rinsed, air-dried, and stored the kit in a plastic zip-lock bag until the next use. Samples of the bacteria were traced back to the mother’s home breast pump, the sink, and the expressed milk.

“In response to the investigation, we reviewed existing resources for women about how to pump breast milk safely, but found little guidance that was detailed and based on the best available science,” says Dr. Anna Bowen, CDC medical officer. “As a result, CDC developed its own guidance.”

The CDC guidelines recommend that the milk collection kit is cleaned between every use, utilizing a dedicated wash basin, as opposed to a sink. After scrubbing with soap and water, the parts should be rinsed and air dried.   Alternatively, a dishwasher can be used.  The CDC also recommends sanitizing the pump kit, bottle brushes, and wash basins once daily in steam or boiling water.

While the recommendations seem cumbersome, especially for tired, working moms, this is not the first case of adverse effects caused by a breast pump.  One study shows that while contamination is underreported to the FDA, it does occur.

Related:  This App Helps ‘Moms Pump Here’ 

Concerns remain that the new CDC recommendations may deter moms from continuing to breastfeed once they return to work.  Many moms are sharing that the recommendations, while understood, are unrealistic.

Most workplaces do not provide adequate space for breastfeeding, never mind a location to correctly clean and sanitize breast pump equipment.  Equally difficult is finding the additional 5-15 minutes required to thoroughly clean the milk collection kit. A number of moms who pump admit to using quick-clean wipes or placing their equipment in the refrigerator until they are ready to pump again.

While it’s important to follow the CDC recommendations as best as possible, it’s also worth recognizing that the benefits of providing an infant with breast milk far outweigh the risks associated with inadequate pump cleaning.


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