This post is super popular so I am updating it for 2018!
Every time I read or hear someone recommend that a breastfeeding mother pump and dump if she wants to have an alcoholic drink or few, it makes me cringe. Where did this term come from? Where did it start?
I know when I was pregnant the first time and discussing how soon I might be able to have a girl's night out again with a friend (Haha), we discussed how I could pump and dump my breastmilk and have a few drinks. Well little did I know then, this is a ridiculous term, and mostly unecessary.
I feel confident discussing this and having a few drinks myself (while nursing) because I have thoroughly researched it. I was nervous about having even one drink after my daughter was born. Years later with my second, not so much. Now I am on my third baby and feel confident drinking in moderation can be done safely without needing to pump and dump breastmilk.
First of all, alcohol enters into your milk and leaves your milk in the same way it enters and leaves your bloodstream. Pumping will not do anything to speed up this process, and there is no need to get rid of your milk while you are drinking alcohol. Once the alcohol is out of your system, it is out of your milk.
Secondly, drinking while breastfeeding is safe when done in moderation. I have written about this before and you can find more here. Unlike pregnancy, very little alcohol reaches your baby through breastmilk. Now you don't want to be falling down drunk and trying to take care of a baby, but that is obvious for reasons unrelated to breastfeeding. The much bigger risk to drinking a lot while breastfeeding would be the inability to take care of your baby.
The official recommendations on drinking alcohol and breastfeeding
The AAP says that alcohol use while breastfeeding is usually compatible.
Dr. Jack Newman in his handout “More Breastfeeding Myths” has said:
Reasonable alcohol intake should not be discouraged at all. As is the case with most drugs, very little alcohol comes out in the milk. The mother can take some alcohol and continue breastfeeding as she normally does. Prohibiting alcohol is another way we make life unnecessarily restrictive for nursing mothers.
The La Leche League’s recommendation as taken from their book – The Womanly Art Of Breastfeeding:
The effects of alcohol on the breastfeeding baby are directly related to the amount the mother ingests. When the breastfeeding mother drinks occasionally or limits her consumption to one drink or less per day, the amount of alcohol her baby receives has not been proven to be harmful.
Thomas W. Hale, R.Ph. Ph.D. “mothers who ingest alcohol in moderate amounts can generally return to breastfeeding as soon as they feel neurologically normal.” A mother’s blood alcohol level must be 300mg/dl before significant side effects are noticed in the infant.
A recent research study found that "the amount of alcohol presented to nursing infants through breast milk is approximately 5–6% of the weight-adjusted maternal dose, and even in a theoretical case of binge drinking, the children would not be subjected to clinically relevant amounts of alcohol.
In conclusion, special recommendations aimed at lactating women are not warranted. Instead, lactating women should simply follow standard recommendations on alcohol consumption."
So I don't need to pump and dump?
No, and the term pump and dump is pretty awful. Since we know alcohol leaves your breastmilk as soon as it leaves your bloodstream, the only reason you may want to pump is if you are going to be away from your baby for a long time, and you need to prevent engorgement.
If you are going to miss a feeding you may want to pump during that time to keep your supply going at the same rate, and pumping may be useful if you would like to have pumped milk available to your baby during the time you are away.
You can always prepare by pumping ahead of time, but there is no pumping and dumping needed.
I am not sure where this notion of pumping and dumping came from. It is still passed around among women and recommended to each other. I would love to see this awful term go once and for all!
I have also had doctors recommend I "pump and dump" when I am taking a certain medication, once when I had my eyes dilated, and when I received an MRI. These were all unnecessary. Many medical professionals recommend this because they believe it is not a big deal and want to cover any issues that could arise. Having researched it in each of these instances I found dumping my milk to not be needed.