Pump and Dump Breastfeeding: Everything You Need to Know

Pump and Dump Breastfeeding: Everything You Need to Know

While the term “pump and dump” might mean a fraudulent investment scheme in the world of finance, new moms know that term also applies to a breast milk pumping technique. With many women looking to breastfeed their babies, pumping has grown in popularity, and pump-and-dump has become a method some moms use to avoid passing on potentially harmful substances to their baby.

In this guide, we’ll cover what exactly pump-and-dump is, what it’s used for, and if it will be right for you to practice. There are some misconceptions surrounding pumping and dumping as well as whether or not it’s safe to drink alcohol while breastfeeding and we hope to clear those up. You may also want to check out our guide to the best breast pumps to help you pick one that suits your needs.

Why Use a Breast Pump?

Breastmilk has been widely touted as the best way to nourish your baby and the motto “breast is best” is something a lot of new moms hear. Though many healthcare providers now remind new moms that actually, “fed is best,” and formula can also be a good choice in certain circumstances. Pumping your breast milk allows you to give your child that special nourishing liquid while enjoying the convenience of bottle feeding. There are many benefits to employing a breast pump, at least some of the time.

Benefits to Pumping

Many moms use pumping shortly after the birth of their child to help encourage their milk supply. Pumping is more consistent than nursing because you can extract the same amount each time at precise intervals. That milk can then be stored for when your baby is ready to eat.

For busy moms, especially those who return to working outside the home, using breast pumps help ensure their supply keeps up even when they can’t feed their baby directly. Many women will pump during their workday and bring the milk home with them. Remember, legally your employer must allow you time along with providing a private space (that’s not the bathroom) to pump if you’re a nursing mother.

Even if you’re home for most feedings, having a breast pump on hand for days when you might be away from your child at a usual feeding time helps keep your supply flowing and can relieve uncomfortable pressure from your breasts becoming too full. If you pump your milk, at least some of the time, that means that others can be involved in feeding your baby too. This helps take some of the responsibility off your shoulders and allows other members of the family a chance to bond with your little one in a special way.

For some moms, breastfeeding their child directly can also be a painful experience. You can experience cracked and even bleeding skin around your nipples. While there are plenty of methods to heal and reduce this issue, for moms with sensitive skin, pumping can help them keep feeding their child nourishing breast milk without suffering through the pain.

Why Dump Your Breast Milk?

While breast milk is a precious commodity, the pump-and-dump method has mothers disposing of their milk or “dumping” it some of the time. It’s for a good reason, though.

Everything you consume is synthesized by your body, and trace amounts can be passed to your baby through your breast milk. While you can finally indulge in things like sushi and runny egg yolks after the birth of your child, alcohol and excess caffeine can be problematic, since those chemical substances can be passed to your child and they aren’t good for your baby.

You’ve waited almost a year to be able to enjoy a glass of wine, so it’s no wonder that many moms want the opportunity to celebrate with their favorite adult beverage a little bit after the birth of their child. But, since you don’t want your baby to be consuming secondhand merlot, some moms choose to pump their breast milk shortly after consuming alcohol to remove milk that may be contaminated with trace amounts.

But, some moms may wonder, how necessary is it to pump after drinking alcohol?

Do You Really Need to Pump and Dump?

It’s no secret that alcohol itself isn’t particularly good for humans of any age. While certain alcoholic beverages can have health benefits, alcohol itself is metabolized in the body into acetaldehyde, which is toxic. Who knew ingesting mild poison could be fun?

The good news is, one or two drinks likely won’t cause any significant percentage of alcohol in your breastmilk. Slate did some fairly in-depth research about how much alcohol actually gets passed on to your little one via breast milk, and the numbers are very low. In fact, that problematic acetaldehyde was not found in breast milk samples at all.

Unlike during pregnancy, you aren’t sharing your bloodstream with your baby, so they won’t be getting the same percentage of alcohol in your breast milk as will be in your blood after a few drinks.

However, even in small amounts, alcohol can pose some serious risks.

What Are the Risks to Drinking While Breastfeeding?

The CDC still recommends that nursing mothers avoid alcohol altogether if possible but acknowledges that moderate consumption (up to one drink a day) hasn’t been shown to cause harm as long as a mother waits an appropriate amount of time before nursing again.

Alcohol can potentially reduce a mother’s letdown reflex, making it harder for her to feed her child. So, if you are having trouble establishing your milk supply, you should avoid drinking as it can have a detrimental effect. Exposure to alcohol in breastmilk can harm a child’s development and disrupt their sleep patterns, so it’s essential to take precautions if you do want to have a drink.

Does Pumping and Dumping Make Your Milk Safe?

Nursing a couple hours after 1-2 glasses of wine is significantly different from nursing in the midst of a binge-drinking scenario. The general advice to nursing mothers is to wait 3-4 hours after drinking to nurse your baby, though some sources say 2.5 hours is enough if you only had one serving of alcohol. If you still feel the effects of alcohol, that means it is still present in your blood, and a small amount may be passed to your baby, so wait until you feel sober to feed.

It’s important to note that pumping your breast milk doesn’t remove alcohol from your bloodstream any faster. Even if you don’t feel intoxicated, you should never nurse within a few hours of drinking just to be on the safe side.

Once a few hours have passed, and you no longer feel the effects of intoxication, your breast milk shouldn’t contain any alcohol. Of course, if you indulged a little and want to be sure, you can always test your milk with test strips like Milkscreen.

Pumping won’t sober you up faster or remove alcohol from your blood or milk, but some mothers will pump shortly after drinking or while still somewhat intoxicated for their own comfort. However, it won’t ensure that your next batch of milk will be safe, especially if you continue drinking or still feel intoxicated.

Many mothers have a regular schedule, and their breasts can feel swollen and painful if they miss a feeding or pumping session. If you’ve had a few drinks recently, but your regular pumping time arrives, you can practice the pump-and-dump technique to keep your body on track and reduce the risk of your milk supply drying up or your ducts becoming clogged.

Missed feedings or pumping sessions can increase your risk of painful mastitis, after all.

How to Pump and Dump

If you end up drinking alcohol, or even having a crazy amount of caffeine (we’ve all had those days, but it’s best to feed your baby before getting your espresso fix) too close to your normal feeding or pumping time, you may consider the pump-and-dump method.

Just like a normal pumping session, you’ll want to find a clean, private space where you can sit down and pump. Pumping typically takes 15-20 minutes, depending on which kind of pump you use. Keep pumping until your breasts feel empty. Then, instead of storing the milk as usual after a pumping session, dispose of it. You can simply pour it down the sink, then clean your pump and yourself as usual.

When to Pump and Dump

If you’ve had alcohol in the past several hours and are still feeling tipsy, you should probably just discard any milk you produce during that period. If you’re tipsy, your milk is tipsy too.

It’s also important to note that substances like marijuana stay in your system much longer than alcohol. While studies are still being conducted, it’s recommended that nursing mothers do not partake in smoking marijuana or using any other recreational drugs. Marijuana is also stored in the body long-term—tests showed amounts of it in breast milk samples up to 6 days later in one study—making pumping and dumping less effective, so it’s better to avoid altogether while breastfeeding.

If you have been exposed to any of these substances, you should wait at least 24 hours before nursing your child again, pumping and dumping in the interim as mentioned above. In the meantime, make sure a sober and responsible adult is feeding them as necessary.

Smoking any substance around your baby could be extremely detrimental to their development, as well. If you have been smoking (including cigarettes) or closely exposed to secondhand smoke, you should change your clothes and wash up before holding your child since they can still inhale any residue on you.

Certain prescription drugs can also affect your milk supply and may be potentially harmful to your child if passed on through breast milk. Your doctor should be aware if you’re breastfeeding and can let you know whether or not it’s safe. If you’re on any prescriptions, it’s vital to discuss the safety of nursing while medicated with a medical professional.

Keeping Your Baby Safe and Happy

If you are planning on having a few drinks, you should try to squeeze in a feeding beforehand. You can also pump in advance and bottle feed your child with stored milk at their usual time. If you don’t have stored milk, substituting formula is fine. Making sure your baby is sufficiently fed is the most important thing, after all.

If you’re feeling sober, you will likely be able to breastfeed without worry, but make sure you have enough to eat on your night out and stay well hydrated. You may want to have an extra glass of water for each alcoholic beverage you consume since alcohol can dehydrate your body, and so can breastfeeding. It may have you running to the bathroom more frequently, but that will help the alcohol pass through your system more quickly and will help prevent a hangover.

It’s also important to remember that when under the influence of alcohol, your fall risk increases greatly, even if you’re not drunk. You should avoid carrying your child around if you feel tipsy since you wouldn’t want to injure them or yourself. Always have a babysitter or a designated driver in the group who can give your little one care if you are impaired in any way.

Navigating the Opinions of Others

You may have done your research and feel confident in your choice to have a drink, but be prepared for some potential “mom-shaming.” Pregnancy and breastfeeding are times when your body isn’t solely functioning for itself, and some people take that as license to consider it public property; meaning they feel like they can openly comment on your choices.

Unasked for advice can come from family, strangers on the street, and in the era of social media, anyone on social media. Unfortunately, with this advice can often come judgment. Even if someone isn’t a medical professional and has never given birth to a child, they may have some strong opinions about how you conduct yourself as a new mom.

Prepare yourself for “Should you be having that? Aren’t you breastfeeding?” at your first postpartum dinner party.

If you choose to breastfeed, it is of vital importance to prioritize your child’s health and recognize that your choices affect them, similar to your life during pregnancy. However, by reading this article and undoubtedly doing other research, you are getting the facts to make an informed decision about your and your child’s health.

And it is true that until about a decade ago, the advice was for nursing mothers to avoid alcohol the same way they did during pregnancy. So, your well-meaning friends might simply be speaking from somewhat outdated research. Some mothers may also avoid alcohol altogether because they know that they don’t process it well, so they don’t want to risk lingering alcohol in their breast milk.

Whichever decision you make should be one you feel confident about after research, self-examination and discussion with your doctor. Parenthood isn’t a place to be selfish, so if you know that you don’t metabolize alcohol well or have difficulty consuming it moderately, you could be putting your child at risk, so it’s best to skip it for now.

If you do choose to enjoy moderate alcohol while taking the previously mentioned precautions, you should feel confident in that choice. While you don’t need to defend your decisions to others, you can have research easily available to show them if you choose. It’s also important to make sure your partner is aware of your decisions and fully informed so they can support you and potentially be your designated driver.

Drinking and Parenting Responsibly

Becoming a parent can feel like you have to sacrifice a lot, and for moms, sometimes it can feel like you give up so much while pregnant and breastfeeding. Pumping your breast milk sometimes can help free you a little bit so that your partner can take their fair share of turns when it comes to feeding. And if you’re craving a girl’s night out with a glass of wine, that’s completely understandable. We all need a break sometimes, and after a year or so of policing every bite of food and sip of drink you consume, it can feel good to loosen restrictions a bit.

While pumping and dumping your breast milk isn’t strictly necessary, after all, only time will sober you up and remove all traces of alcohol from your bloodstream; this technique can be helpful. You can use the pump-and-dump method to keep your milk supply consistent without the risk of exposing your child to harmful substances or risking potentially painful milk duct infections for yourself.

Always consult your doctor and take all the necessary precautions to make sure you and your baby are safe. Outside of members of the medical profession, the well-meaning advice of others should always be taken with an extremely large grain of salt. Whether that salt is on the rim of a margarita glass is another story.