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Wondering who made up those pump and dump breastfeeding rules and if you really need to follow them? Turns out… they may not be all that helpful. In this article, we’ll cover what to do with breast milk instead of dumping it after an alcoholic drink!
Time and time again I’ve heard moms talk about how they pumped and dumped their breast milk in order to enjoy a drink or two while breastfeeding. I’m not much of a drinker except on occasion, but I always wondered why so many women would go through the hassle of wasting their precious liquid gold just for a drink.
Then, one day, I got the most intense craving for a margarita. As a breastfeeding mama, I knew there was only one thing to do — research, research, and research some more! This is when I learned that the ol’ “pump and dump” rule is a bit outdated. I’ll explain why below.
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Should you pump & dump your breastmilk?
Since I never drink, I was SO paranoid I would be harming my little guy by doing so.
Thankfully, I learned soon thanks to the CDC, “Generally, moderate alcohol consumption by a breastfeeding mother (up to 1 standard drink per day) is not known to be harmful to the infant, especially if the mother waits at least 2 hours after a single drink before nursing.”
What does that mean? It means moderation & appropriate timing are KEY when consuming alcohol while breastfeeding or pumping.
What to do with Breast Milk Instead of Dumping
There are quite a few things you can do with your breast milk instead of dumping it after an alcoholic drink. The list below is packed with ideas:
- Nurse your baby! Often times, it’s comopletely safe to nurse your baby after a drink depending on when and how much you drank. You can refer to the section below on “how to tell it’s safe to breastfeed” for additional information.
- Save it for a milk bath. If you’re still worried about your breast milk, don’t dump it out. Instead, save it for a milk bath! Breast milk has wonderful benefits for baby’s skin and hair during a bath.
- Make Jewelry. If your journey is coming to an end soon, you can store your milk in the freezer and use it to make some beautiful breast milk keepsake jewelry when the time is right.
How will you know if it’s ‘SAFE’ to breastfeed?
As you guessed, if you choose to consume any alcohol, there will be some trace in your breastmilk.
The peak levels tend to be around 30-60 minutes AFTER consumption.
They even sell these portable alcohol testing strips for mom’s to test their breastmilk.
The day I had my much-needed margarita (which was delicious & homemade by the way), I chose to have it after my son went to sleep.
I nursed him to bed while my husband got our drinks ready so that once he was in bed, we could hang out and have our own little date night on our patio. Which, the date night was SO necessary after those first 3 months of learning how to be parents.
Anywho, I drank about 5-6oz of a margarita that night, waited for 3 hours which is when our son woke up wanting to nurse, nursed him, and then put him back to bed.
Not only did I get to enjoy the once-in-a-lifetime drink I hardly ever do, but our little guy was completely unharmed.
A few things to remember when consuming alcohol while breastfeeding or pumping is:
- The more alcohol you consume, the longer it will be detectable in your breastmilk.
- Generally, 1 small drink/day is not known to be harmful as long as it’s kept minimal and moderate (according to the CDC), however many experts don’t recommend drinking more than 1-2 drinks per week.
- ‘Pumping and dumping’ does not decrease the amount of alcohol within the breastmilk itself.
Did you just say pump and dump breastfeeding is NOT effective?
Yes mama, I sure did! Approximately, less than 2% of the alcohol consumed by mom is absorbed into the breastmilk.
In addition, a common rule of thumb is that if you’re sober enough to drive (not think you’re sober, actually be sober), then you are safe to continue breastfeeding.
However, understanding the way alcohol gets into your milk and exits your milk could help you understand why pumping and dumping are ineffective.
Once alcohol is consumed, it enters your bloodstream hence makes its way into your breast milk. But the alcohol isn’t just sitting and accumulating in your breast milk.
The same way it got in, it’s slowly making it’s way out as time passes. This is why the pump and dump method have no effect on your alcohol level within the milk itself.
I will say, once I learned all this information it put my worries at ease knowing I could enjoy my annual margarita and not stress about harming my little baby.
So what’s the final take away when it comes to consuming alcohol while breastfeeding?
I mean, of course, I think the safest way to be 100% sure is to just avoid all alcohol.
However, I understand that some mamas need their glass of wine the same way I really needed that one margarita. I get it.
If you do choose to consume alcohol, just try to make sure you’re consuming a small amount, enough to empty and leave your bloodstream in 2-3 hours.
Don’t bother with the whole pump and dump breastfeeding method since it’s pretty much pointless.
In addition, you could also swap for a non-alcoholic drink if you’re that paranoid. I was thinking about doing this and honestly, don’t see the real difference in doing this since I’m not the biggest fan of the way alcohol tastes anyways.
Lastly, if you’re really worried or uneasy, use the portable alcohol testing strips, there really is no better way to be sure if your milk is safe or if you need to wait a bit longer before nursing or pumping.
Breastfeeding & Alcohol References can be found here:
Have you been told to pump and dump while breastfeeding and consuming alcohol? Share your experience below!