Pump and Dump: Is It Necessary After Drinking?
If you’re a new mom or new to breastfeeding, you’ve likely heard the term “pump and dump.” But what does it mean exactly? And more importantly, is it really necessary? Could you make your baby sick if you don’t? Learn more!
What is Pumping and Dumping?
For years, breastfeeding moms have been told that if they have an alcoholic drink, they should pump their milk and dump it afterward, lest the alcohol travel through the breast milk to baby. The theory is that the presence of alcohol in breast milk can disrupt a baby’s eating and sleeping, as well as potentially affect their development. Additionally, babies have small livers and require twice as much time to process alcohol as adults.
But more recently, this theory is being challenged.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) states that if you are going to have an alcoholic beverage, it is best to do so just after nursing or pumping milk. Breastfeeding or pumping breast milk is okay once two hours has passed since your last alcoholic drink. When referring to one alcoholic drink, this means one 12-ounce beer, 1 ounce of hard liquor, or 4 ounces of wine.
When To "Pump and Dump"
There are other occasions and circumstances when “pumping and dumping” is recommended, including:
- If you’re taking medication. Certain prescription medications can enter your breast milk, so it’s important to discuss this with your doctor first. You can also refer to LactMed, a drugs and lactation database, for information on specific medications.
- After caffeine. It’s best to wait until after nursing or expressing breast milk to consume that coffee or chocolate. The AAP states that if you drink no more than three cups of coffee over the course of the day, there is little to no caffeine detected in an infant's urine.
- After marijuana use. Marijuana can pass through breast milk and stays in your body longer than alcohol. This means that even pumping and dumping may not be effective. As such, experts recommend lactating moms abstain from marijuana use while breastfeeding.
- When you’re away from baby. It’s essential to maintain a regular schedule when you’re breastfeeding so that your body continues to produce enough milk. However, if you’re away from your baby and have no way to store your breast milk safely, it’s best to pump and dump. We know it's hard to see all that liquid gold go down the drain! But rest assured you're doing the right thing by telling your body to continue producing milk while ensuring that all the milk you provide to your baby is absolutely safe for him or her to drink.
Effects of Alcohol on Breast Milk
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), levels of alcohol are at their highest in breast milk about 30-60 minutes after an alcoholic beverage is consumed. Those levels increase along with the amount the mother drinks. Other factors that affect those levels include how quickly the alcohol was consumed, if it was taken with food, how much mom weighs, and how quickly her body metabolizes alcohol. Ultimately, alcohol will remain in a mother’s breast milk as long as it remains in her bloodstream.
Alcohol can also decrease hormones that aid in your milk ejection reflex. This is temporary, as those hormone levels will return to normal once alcohol has been metabolized. Conversely, chronic consumption of alcohol could lead to shortened breastfeeding duration and decreased milk production.
So, is it necessary to pump and dump if you’ve had a drink? Most experts agree that drinking alcohol in moderation while breastfeeding (meaning, up to one drink per day) is not thought to be dangerous for your baby. Just be sure to wait at least two hours to nurse or pump after your last alcoholic beverage! If you know there will be a day or evening when you may drink alcohol, that may be a good time to tap into your stored breast milk supply in the fridge or freezer until you are able to nurse and/or pump again.
- Babycenter, (2021). Alcohol and Breastfeeding.
- What to Expect, (2020). Pump and Dump: What It Is and 3 Times You Should Do It
- American Academy of Pediatrics. (2013). The Transfer of Drugs and Therapeutics Into Human Breast Milk: An Update on Selected Topics
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), (2021). Breastfeeding: Alcohol
- American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), (2020). HealthyChildren.org
- Wambach, K. & Spencer, B. (2021). Breastfeeding and Human Lactation (6 ed.). Burlington, MA: Jones & Bartlett Learning.