When you hear a mom say she had to “pump and dump,” what she means is that she used a breast pump to empty her breasts and then discarded the milk she collected, so her baby wouldn’t drink it. The only reason to ever do this is if you have consumed something or are consuming something that could be harmful if it passed through your breast milk and to your baby. If you need to temporarily refrain from breastfeeding your baby, it’s important that you pump when your baby would normally nurse, so your breast milk supply won’t go down. It is also very important that you understand the pump and dump breastfeeding rules.
When to Pump and Dump
Although there are many medications that are okay to take while breastfeeding, there are some that could be harmful. Before taking any medication, make sure you check with your doctor and see if it’s safe to take while breastfeeding. If it’s not, your doctor may recommend that you “pump and dump” while taking the medication. If you can plan ahead, pump and freeze up enough milk prior to taking the medication so you can keep your baby on breast milk while you’re taking your medication. If you have to go on the medicine immediately, feed your baby with formula and continue pumping and dumping to keep your milk supply up.
Another time you might want to pump and dump is if you drink alcohol. It’s not a good idea to drink when you’re breastfeeding because the alcohol will pass through your breast milk. In fact, according to the BabyCenter Medical Advisory Board, the same amount of alcohol that makes it into your bloodstream makes it into your breast milk. What your liver can easily tolerate, an infant’s can’t. So, it’s important that you don’t drink and breastfeed. That’s not to say you can’t enjoy the occasional drink; you just need to do it the right way.
Experts differ on the details of this, but most agree that it’s not the pumping and dumping that gets your body ready to nurse again after you’ve had alcohol, but the passage of time itself. Your body will rid itself of the alcohol you consume on its own. So, really, the purpose of the pump and dump after having had alcohol is to keep up your milk supply. Some say that as soon as the mental effects of alcohol wear off, you’re ready to nurse again.
At any rate, if you do want to indulge in the occasional drink, make sure you time it right after a feeding, and don’t nurse again until the alcohol is out of your system.
Keep in mind, the more you drink, the longer it will take the alcohol to leave your system. Baby Center says, “…according to researchers who have charted the clearance of alcohol from breast milk, if a 120-pound woman of average height consumes three drinks in one hour, it will take seven and a half hours for her breast milk to be alcohol free. For a 175-pound woman of average height, it would take about six hours. If a 140-pound woman had four drinks in an hour, it would take about nine hours for her breast milk to be alcohol free. For the 175-pound woman, it would take about eight hours.”
Play it safe on the timing and just make sure you feed your baby previously pumped milk or formula at her normal eating times, as you pump and dump until your milk is ready for baby again.