Excuse me, what now? What’s a fridge pump hack? Many of you have heard of this term and maybe some of you even use this hack. If you’re a pumper, and you haven’t heard of this, you likely will, it’s become a popular hack for moms on social media. Here’s the thing: pumping, especially if you’re an exclusive pumper, can be tedious and the routine of hooking up the pump and its attachments, expressing the milk, storing the milk and washing all those parts you just hooked up every single time can even seem redundant. It’s not surprising that we’re looking for a way to cut corners here. But is the fridge pump hack a safe practice and should you be using it?
- What is the fridge pump hack?
- Is it safe?
- What are the risks?
Table of Contents
What is the Refrigerator Pump Hack?
You’ve been told by numerous sources that you need to wash the parts of your pump that come into contact with breastmilk every time you use it, but do you really? The fridge pump hack suggests not. This hack has you storing your pump parts (the one’s you’re supposed to wash) in a large ziplock bag, tupperware or a wet dry bag and then sticking them in the fridge between uses with the goal of washing them once at the end of the day.
Is it Safe to Store Your Pump in the Fridge in between Pumping Sessions?
Well, the CDC says no, it should not be done. The parts of your pump that come into contact with breast milk have a high risk of growing bacteria that could potentially make your baby sick and the CDC, along with many moms, don’t like to take any chances. The CDC also says that while this practice should not be used, if you’re going to do it anyway, never for babies with compromised immune systems or babies younger than two months old.
All that being said, the train of thought that’s made this hack so popular is that if you can safely store breastmilk in the fridge (or cooler with frozen ice packs) for a period of time without having to worry about said bacteria, why not the pump too? Common sense suggests that this should be okay and there’s little evidence that this practice has been harmful to healthy babies, however, we’re going to reiterate that it should not be used for premature or otherwise medically fragile babies/babies with compromised immune systems. If you’re donating breast milk, that milk most likely goes to medically fragile babies and this hack shouldn’t be used for donated milk either.
Benefits vs. Risks
When faced with any worthy mom decision, the best place to start is to weigh the benefits against the risks.
Benefits of fridge pump hack:
- Saves time
- Saves a little money – you spend less in dish soap
- Makes the pumping routine less tedious
- Makes pumping at work or away from home much easier
The only real risk with the fridge pump hack is the potential to grow bacteria that could make a baby sick.
How Can I Mitigate Some of the Risks?
If you’ve weighed your options and you’ve decided that you feel confident enough in your baby’s health to try the fridge pump hack, here’s some important steps to take in order to keep this practice as low risk as possible.
- Wash your hands. But seriously, not just because you’re fridge pump hacking. Wash them every time you touch your pump pieces.
- There’s some conflicting information out there regarding whether or not to rinse the pump pieces with water before storing them. Even though the CDC says not to use this hack, they recommend to rinse the pump parts after each use. Other sources say to skip the rinse because breastmilk does have some antibacterial properties that can fight against bacteria growth. This step is going to depend on your personal preference and situation – maybe you don’t have access to running water. If you’re still not sure, conduct a little research of your own to find your comfort level with this.
- Store in a clean, airtight container. Don’t lay them out on a paper towel, exposed to the fridge air
- Wash them thoroughly after 8 hours preferably, but no more than 12
- Many sources advise that you have a special washing basin, scrub brushes and cleaning equipment that will only be used specifically for your pump parts and bottles
- Be certain that your clean pump parts are totally dry before you use them again – a through cleaning and drying prevents bacteria from growing
- Sterilization of your pump parts is probably a good idea every few days.
What Other Ways Can I Quickly Clean or Sanitize my Pump?
If you’re looking for other ways to achieve a quick clean or sanitize your pump parts between pumpings, you might consider:
Pump wipes – these are wipes that are specifically for the cleaning of your breast pump parts, making pumping on the go (like in the car!) more convenient.
Sterilization bags – you pop your pieces into this bag, add a bit of water and toss it into the microwave. The steam produced in the bag will sterilize your pump parts.
Boiling water – go old school and boil your pump parts in a pot of water. Bring to a full rolling boil for at least five minutes and then dry thoroughly. Not all breast pump parts are recommended for boiling weather though, so be sure to check the manufacturer booklet.
Dishwasher – lots of dishwashers come with a sanitize cycle, so you can load up your top rack and simply push a button. Doesn’t get much easier than that, though if you’re in a rush, this might not be your best option since this will likely add extra time to the washing cycle.
Other Helpful Pumping Time Saving Tips
If the whole idea of the fridge pump hack just turns you right off, but you still grumble at the idea of washing your pump parts after every single use, stock up on extra pump parts. Lots of moms buy enough parts to use a clean one at each pumping and then toss them all in the dishwasher at the end of every day.
Embrace the nursing bra/tank. If you haven’t already come to terms with the nursing bra or nursing tank, you’re missing out on the beautiful convenience and comfort they offer. Yes, you can just hike up a regular bra, but comfort-wise, they’re not ideal for the time you’re going to spend sitting and pumping. Pumping can occasionally come with its own variety of discomforts, don’t let the bra you’re wearing be one of them, but also don’t take up precious time taking the thing off and putting it back on. A nursing bra takes care of all of this for you.
Massage your breasts. Doing so can speed up milk let down and expression.
Stick to a pumping schedule. When you do, it’s easier to complete other tasks around pumping. You know that you pump around 3pm, so you clearly won’t schedule that conference call until 4pm.
Erect a pumping shrine. No, not really, but a simple pump-station for the home can be a serious time saver. A pump station allows you to keep everything hooked up so that there’s no unpacking and repacking. Here’s how one organized mama makes a pump station work for her:
The fridge pump hack is a personal decision that some moms readily embrace and others are not interested in risking. There’s plenty of testimonials available online if you’re looking for advice from moms who either use this hack or don’t. Like so many different aspects of motherhood, it really all comes down to your comfort level. If you have a thriving, healthy baby and you’re not seeing a big risk in implementing this hack, it could make the whole process of pumping a bit more bearable. But if the possibility of bacteria making your baby sick, no matter how big or small the risk, makes you cringe or if your baby is medically fragile or premature, you’ll skip this hack altogether and look for other, safer ways to make pumping more do-able. Do what’s best for you and your baby.
Meghann Bernard is the health and wellness specialist and psychology professor at her local college. She is a certified health and wellness coach, certified yoga instructor, holds a bachelor’s degree in English literature and a master’s in both educational and health psychology. She, her husband and their four beautiful, spunky children live on a third generation farm in a small rural town and spend as much time outdoors as they can. Their favorite destinations for camping and hiking are the Adirondack and Thousand Islands areas. Meg has been writing since she was a child and is currently working on her third novel. She also enjoys playing violin, guitar, gardening, and her oldest son just taught her how to skateboard. She feels that being a parent is the most important and rewarding part of her life and after birthing four babies, she knows a thing or two about mom-ing. Best advice from one mom to another: when you become a parent, time starts moving in fast-forward. Before you know it, they’ll be grown and flown so enjoy every bit of time you have with them. It all happens so fast.