Help! There’s Water in my Tubing!

‘Tis the dog days of summer here in the Boston area. The 3 H’s predominate during local weather forecasts: Hazy, Hot and Humid! All these lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer just might be contributing to a common occurrence this time of year: undesired water in your lactation pump tubing. If you’ve been noticing anything from a slight misting to full-out droplets accumulating in your tubes, you are in good company! A flurry of concerned calls to our office motivates the writing of this post. Please read on if you need some common sense knowledge about the whys and hows of how to deal with water in your tubes.

Why Does Water Collect in My Tubing??!!

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It feels unfair!

After all, you’re fastidious about proper kit care and follow best practices for kit hygiene:

  • You dutifully wash your pieces with each use with warm soapy water

  • You give them a warm water rinse

  • And then air-dry the pieces on a single-use towel.

Why, Why, Why?!!!

Rather than belabor you with an explanation of the Ideal Gas Law, I’ll give you a simplified explanation:

Air Circulation ↓ + Humidity ↑ = Condensation in your Tubes

Air drying is quick and effective when we are talking about large open surfaces exposed to good ventilation. Eg. a bed sheet hanging on a clothesline. The interior surfaces of your typical pump connector assembly are fairly fussy bits to air dry. Even under the best of circumstances they are difficult to dry completely. Let’s face it, air circulation was probably better in your high school gym locker. Add the time constraints that pumping mothers are facing and those little nooks and crannies are likely to hang on to those residual water droplets with the tenacity of a terrier. Simply turn on your pump and schoom, vaporized water in your tubes.

Which then begs the Questions:

  1. Am I doing something wrong?

  1. Is this Okay?

  1. How the heck do I make it go away?

Let’s tackle these one at a time:

  1. No, you are not doing anything wrong! There’s enough maternal guilt out there to start a new religion. Stop beating yourself up! You are following best practices. If you want to point a finger of blame anywhere, point it at the structural misogyny that doesn’t provide decent family leave benefits in this country and just might be the reason that you are pumping to begin with! Ahem, sorry for that! You are doing the best for your baby. Be proud of what you are doing and keep up the great work!

  1. Is this okay?…Survey says: Yes and No. Yes, it’s okay. It’s not going to hurt your baby if a drop of water gets into the mix. It’s not going to lower the pressure on your pump, effect your supply or any of that scary stuff. No, it’s not okay to have moisture lingering in your tubes unabated. Moisture is the enemy when we are striving to maintain sanitary conditions. Mold, mildew and germs love, love, love moist dark places. Let’s not let your tubes become warm, moist, dark places! Which leads us to…

  1. How the heck do I make this go away?! cowgirl-with-lasso-400Easy Peasey! If it’s a light misting you are dealing with, simply disconnect your connectors, leaving the tubes attached to your pump motor as usual. Run the motor, sans attachments, for 10-20 minutes. The motor will whoosh dry air in and out of the tubes, providing that much needed ventilation. Voila, dry tubes. If your condensation has been building and you’re facing droplets rather than a misting, you may need to run the motor for a longer period of time. Enterprising pumpers can even disconnect the tubes from the pump motor, flush them with Isopropyl rubbing alcohol and then use centrifugal force to whip as much residual alcohol from the lines. (Channel your inner cowgirl ladies, say a “Yee Haa!” and whip those tubes over your head, rodeo style. For safety’s sake, ask your support person to step away with baby, so as no one gets hurt. Better yet, have them fetch you a gold sheriff’s star for your heroic efforts!)   Who knew you could have so much good clean fun doing pump maintenance? Then attach the tubing to the pump motor as above and run the motor until everything is dry

There you have it! Problem Solved!