What to Know About Pumping and Dumping

Pumping and dumping refers to pumping breastmilk and dumping it down the drain. Doctors may also advise women to pump and dump after taking a short-term medication that may be harmful to a breastfeeding child.

It’s a common myth that pumping removes contaminated milk and allow uncontaminated milk to fill in the milk ducts. The body’s own metabolic processes remove alcohol or other harmful substances in the milk over time — with or without pumping.

Pumping doesn’t speed up this process. If alcohol is in the bloodstream, it will still be present in the milk after pumping.

However, many women like to pump to relieve pressure while waiting to breastfeed again. Or they may pump and dump to stimulate the breasts to produce milk at a routine time.

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Pumping and Dumping After Drinking Alcohol

Studies suggest that long-term exposure of moderate to heavy amounts of alcohol in breastmilk can harm babies. Alcohol can impair a baby’s growth, motor function, and cognitive development. That’s why nursing moms need to be careful about how soon they breastfeed their baby after drinking alcohol.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends waiting 2 hours after your last drink before breastfeeding again. If you have two or more drinks, you should wait two hours for each drink. For example, if you have two glasses of wine over dinner, you should wait four hours before breastfeeding.

You may choose to pump and dump in this waiting period — or not.

If you only have one glass of wine, you should be able to continue breastfeeding or pumping as you normally would. Try to breastfeed shortly before drinking alcohol. This way, two hours will pass from your last alcoholic drink until the next time you need to nurse.

The main reason not to breastfeed when small amounts of alcohol are in your system is that it changes the taste of the milk. Babies don’t like it, and will not nurse as long as they should, which could affect their feeding and sleeping patterns as well as your milk supply.

How Much Alcohol Can I Drink When Breastfeeding?

You can safely drink alcohol and still breastfeed your baby as long as you wait the right amount of time before nursing. In the meantime, you can give your infant stored breastmilk or formula. But there are other reasons to limit your intake when breastfeeding

Studies suggest that drinking two or more alcoholic beverages a day can reduce your milk supply. This is because alcohol can negatively affect the production of prolactin. This is the hormone that triggers the body to produce milk.

If you are breastfeeding, you should avoid having more than one glass of alcohol a day. If you need help for an alcohol addiction (alcohol use disorder), your doctor can recommend treatment programs or support groups.

Other Reasons to Pump and Dump

Another reason to pump and dump is if you are taking a short-term medication that could be harmful to a breastfeeding child. Certain prescription drugs, can harm babies if present in breastmilk, though most commonly prescribed painkiller and antibiotics are usually compatible (or a compatible alternative can be found). If there is a chance your prescribed medication can cause adverse effects for your baby, you may have to stop breastfeeding for a certain period after taking these drugs.

Always ask your doctor or pharmacist if a prescription drug is safe for breastfeeding. You can also look up the drug in the Drugs and Lactation Database to make sure it’s safe to continue breastfeeding.

What about recreational or illicit drugs? While the body clears alcohol from the breastmilk relatively quickly, this is not the case with other drugs. Substances such as cannabis, opioids, or cocaine stay in the system much longer.

If you’re breastfeeding, you should avoid these substances in any amount. If you do consume any drugs, talk to your doctor about how long you should wait before it’s safe to breastfeed again.

If you find it difficult not to use a substance when pregnant or during your postpartum period, talk to your doctor about treatment. This can include medication, counseling, and other supports to help you as you adjust to the pressures of caring for a young child.

American Academy of Pediatrics. Alcohol and breast milk. Link

CDC. Breastfeeding: Alcohol. Link

National Library of Medicine. Drugs and lactation database. Link

Karen Milne. Taking medicine while breastfeeding. BabyCenter. Link

About UPMC Magee-Womens Hospital

For more than a century, UPMC Magee-Womens Hospital has provided high-quality medical care to women at all stages of life. UPMC Magee is long-renowned for its services to women and babies but also offers a wide range of care to men as well. Our patient-first approach ensures you and your loved ones get the care you need. Nearly 10,000 babies are born each year at Magee, and our NICU is one of the largest in the country. Our network of care – from imaging centers to hospital services – provides care throughout Pennsylvania and Maryland, giving you a chance to get the expert care you need close to home. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recognizes UPMC Magee as a National Center of Excellence in Women’s Health, and the Magee-Womens Research Institute is the largest research institute in the U.S. devoted exclusively to women’s health and reproductive biology.