Bridging the gap: safe and hygienic handling of human milk

When breastfeeding is not possible, the NICU must ensure that human milk is of minimal hazard to the infant, and of maximum quality.

All processes involving human milk therefore need to

• minimise the possibility of contamination
• promote safe collection and cleaning
• maintain the integrity of bioactive components
• reduce disease transmission risks
• make the most efficient use of the available volume
• minimise the chances of mix-ups

Medela shares these goals. Utilising research-based and process-optimised innovations, as well as research reviews and the latest study summaries, Medela supports NICU professionals and patients in making informed choices.

Preventing contamination, ensuring infection control and maximising the nutritional and protective components of human milk is critical in the NICU. Incorrect handling can result in loss of milk quality, improper hygiene or mix-ups. If hygiene issues are detected, mothers’ precious milk will most likely need to be discarded. In the worst-case scenario, hygienic issues may go undetected and put the infant at risk.


Gransden, W.R., Webster, M., French, G.L., & Phillips, I. An outbreak of Serratia marcescens transmitted by contaminated breast pumps in a special care baby unit. J Hosp Infect 7, 149-154 (1986).

Brown, S.L., Bright, R.A., Dwyer, D.E., & Foxman, B. Breast pump adverse events: Reports to the food and drug administration. J Hum Lact 21, 169-174 (2005).

Donowitz, L.G., Marsik, F.J., Fisher, K.A., & Wenzel, R.P. Contaminated breast milk: A source of Klebsiella bacteremia in a newborn intensive care unit. Rev Infect Dis 3, 716-720 (1981).