Once a woman gets pregnant, her life changes drastically. Suddenly, she can’t do the usual things she does like drinking wine or any form of alcoholic drink. Once she gives birth and decides to breastfeed, it’s like a totally new chapter that leaves her thinking whether or not it’s already safe to drink or not. But here comes pumping and dumping, a method that is common among moms who drink, pumps, and make sure to dump the milk rather than store or feed the baby.
When I found out about my pregnancy, I was so ecstatic at the same time scared. It was a mixture of emotions. I was so happy at one moment, and then, realizing how much sacrifice I need to do to ensure the welfare of my child, I must admit, I felt a little sad. In addition, the idea of giving birth and thinking ahead about the possible challenges we are going to deal with, it was kind of scary – really.
I guess a lot of women out there will agree with me, because it’s true! The moment you confirm your pregnancy, you have no choice but to change your lifestyle. If you drink alcoholic drinks, you got to say goodbye for now. Otherwise, you might just harm your baby.
Speaking of alcoholic drinks, just to say, I am no heavy drinker, but I occasionally drink especially wine. I drink when my husband and I go on a date or when I go out with friends. But when I found out I was pregnant, immediately, right there and then, I stopped. Imagine, for nine months, not a bit of alcohol entered my body.
When I gave birth, initially, I thought drinking wine at least would be safe. Unfortunately, my healthcare provider, which happened to be a certified lactation consultant, informed me that while drinking wine once in a while is acceptable, certain precautions must be made. It’s actually during that consultation that I found out about the term pumping and dumping.
Initially, I couldn’t understand what it was. But when my lactation consultant explained it to me, it’s when I finally understood that actually there is nothing wrong with occasional drinking while breastfeeding so long as you ensure that you are not going to pass the alcohol on to your baby.
Perhaps by now, you are wondering what pumping and dumping means, well, here it goes.
What is pumping and dumping?
Pumping and dumping is a term that refers to the act of pumping your breast milk, and then dumping the milk you collected instead of storing it for future feeding or feeding it directly to your baby.
The process of pumping and dumping is usually done by breastfeeding moms who think they have had too much alcoholic drink. By pumping and dumping, this helps them ensure that their babies are safe from possibly feeding milk with alcohol content.
While a lot of women thought that by pumping and dumping they get to get rid of alcohol from their bodies, well, that is very wrong. Even if you pump and dump so many times after drinking, the alcohol will not immediately leave your system. In fact, it’s just there not until a few hours. The alcohol will eventually leave your bloodstream including your breast milk naturally after a few hours.
Pumping and dumping basically help you to feel better especially when the breasts get full or engorge since the baby cannot latch or nurse at the moment.
What are the common reasons for pumping and dumping?
Although pumping and dumping will not help in getting rid of alcohol from your system, it does help address other issues like:
- Engorgement or Leaky Breasts. Pumping and dumping help you to avoid engorgement or leaky breasts especially during the waiting time – while the alcohol has not totally left your bloodstream yet. Since it takes a while for the alcohol to leave the body, most likely your breast will get full before it is safe to have your baby latch on you.
- Disposing of Milk. Basically, the idea of pumping and dumping is to ensure you get to dispose of the milk that may contain alcohol. By the way, experts say that it normally takes at least 2 hours before the alcohol fully leaves your bloodstream.
Apart from drinking alcoholic though, there are other reasons why some women do pump and dump breast milk, which includes the following:
- Unsanitary Areas. If you are in a place that is not clean, and you needed to pump to relieve the painful engorgement, most likely, you will have no other choice but to pump and empty your breast, right? Now, the breast milk you collected in such conditions may get contaminated, and may not be safe to feed your baby especially if your child is a newborn or a young infant. Thus, experts suggest you just dump the milk to avoid any harm.
- Certain Medications. Not all medications are safe for breastfeeding moms. I think it is safe to say that when you are breastfeeding your child, the amount of care you did when you were just pregnant is equally the same, because basically, what you eat or drink is the same kind of food that you are passing on to your child in the form of your breast milk.
Anyway, while there are certain medications that are considered safe for your baby, there are also medications that are unsafe for your baby. Unfortunately, if there is a need for you to start a long-term medication that is not considered safe to take while breastfeeding your baby, that means you will have to wean your baby sooner than planned. Once that happens, you will have to pump and dump until your breast no longer produces milk.
Meanwhile, if you have to go on a short-term medication that is not compatible with lactation, you may go on a temporary weaning until you have completed the required medication. During the time that your baby is not nursing from you, you can pump to get rid of engorged breasts and to be able to maintain your breastmilk supply. However, since the milk you collected is considered unsafe for your baby, you will then have to throw it away.
- Uncertain Foods. When breastfeeding, you can actually eat almost anything and everything. However, there are some food choices that should be limited or avoided when lactating. Although it is rare, some food is known to cause sensitivities in your breastfed child. One example is caffeine or some food that are considered as highly allergenic like nuts, soybeans, and more. If you happen to have taken any of these excessively, this may cause a reaction in your baby. To avoid such a reaction, you may opt to do the pumping and dumping method. This definitely helps a lot in preventing your baby from getting exposed to any types of irritants.
- Improper Milk Storage. If you are a mommy on the go who happens to be away from your baby, and needs to pump to get rid of engorgement but you do not have access to a refrigerator or cooler, then pumping and dumping will most likely happen.
As you know, well, breastfeeding moms most especially know that when you pump milk, storage is key to ensure the milk won’t get spoiled. According to experts, breast milk can only last at a room temperature for approximately four to eight hours, even faster when you put it in a warmer room. If you want it to last longer you either store it in a refrigerator or a cooler.
Thus, if you know you won’t be able to get to your baby sooner, make sure to bring with you a cooler every time so you have a proper storage for your pumped milk.
- Thyroid Scan. In order to diagnose hyperthyroidism, a person will need to go through a radioactive iodine uptake scan. To be sure, make sure to ask your doctor how long you will have to wait before you can safely breastfeed your baby.
While you are not allowed to breastfeed, you can pump to help relieve engorgement, as well as maintain your breast milk supply. However, make sure to discard or dump your milk immediately after collection as it is very dangerous for your baby to get exposed to radioactive material that will enter the milk.
- Recreational Drugs. Experts say that no amount of recreational drugs is safe to use or recommended whether it be during pregnancy, breastfeeding or parenting for that matter. By all means, if you are taking recreational drugs, you should never breastfeed your baby. The chemicals of the drug you take can travel through your breast milk, and can be very dangerous, life-threatening for your baby depending on the kind of drug you use.
If you use recreational drugs frequently, you better not breastfeed at all. Instead, seek help. Meanwhile, if you use a drug on a very rare occasion, you better pump and dump until the chemicals have completely left your system or better yet, never use drugs ever again.
How is pumping and dumping related to drinking alcohol?
Basically, the term became popular among breastfeeding moms who drink alcoholic drinks. Although as mentioned a while ago, pumping and dumping does not only apply to moms who drink alcohol, but for other reasons as well.
Now, since drinking alcohol is the most common reason why breastfeeding moms pump and dump, we’ll focus on that.
Is drinking alcohol while breastfeeding safe for you and your little one?
Now, going back to drinking alcoholic drinks, according to experts, drinking alcohol while breastfeeding is generally considered safe when consumed in moderation, which means drinking a few drinks per week or no more than a drink on a daily basis.
Although considered safe, you will need to wait about two to four hours for the alcohol to completely leave your body. However, the amount of time differs though depending on certain factors like the amount of alcohol you consumed, how hard the drink was, how much you weigh, as well as how much food you have eaten.
If you really can’t avoid drinking, experts recommend drinking just after you have breastfed your baby or after you pumped. By doing so, it will allow you to have enough time until your next feeding or pumping session.
To be sure that alcohol has completely left your system, you may use a milkscreen test strips. All you have to do is dip the test strip into your milk and it will show whether or not your milk is good to go.
By the way alcohol could distasteful for your little one, and he or she may not like it.
Can drinking alcohol while breastfeeding hurt your little one?
Pumping and dumping is the best way to help you get through the time until you can finally feed your baby after drinking alcoholic drinks. But the question is, can drinking alcoholic drinks while breastfeeding hurt your baby?
Experts say that light to moderate drinking by breastfeeding moms is considered safe for both the baby and the mom. However, it is a different story when consuming alcohol heavily. In fact, studies show that it can affect the breast milk supply of the mom. Yes, if you have heard about drinking beer to be effective in increasing breast milk, well, the truth is that is just a myth. There’s no truth to that.
Anyway, going back, feeding your baby with milk that contains alcohol may be unhealthy for your child. It can negatively affect your baby’s sleep. Needless to say it can also affect your letdown. In addition, generally speaking, it is never safe to care for a child when you are not sober.
Is pumping and dumping always necessary after drinking alcohol?
Pumping and dumping is not usually necessary when drinking alcohol especially if you only consumed a glass of wine or any alcoholic drink, but just the same, you have to wait until after a few hours before breastfeeding your baby.
In addition, you can skip pumping and dumping if engorgement or milk supply is not an issue. All you have to do is wait until the alcohol metabolizes naturally. Just so you know, alcohol does not really stay in breast milk. It just passes through it. Thus, pumping and dumping does not really help eliminate alcohol from your system.
Can a nursing mom drink more if she is pumping and dumping?
As mentioned earlier, pumping and dumping do not really help you get rid of the alcohol in your system. In fact, the amount of alcohol in your bloodstream is just the same rate as the one present in the breastmilk. If you opt to drink more, that basically means you have to wait for a longer period of time before it is considered safe to nurse your little one.
What to do if a mom drinks too much?
If for instance you did not intend to but you happen to drink too much, you basically have nothing else to do but wait. Once you are sober again and you have waited long enough as recommended based on your alcohol consumption, then you can resume breastfeeding your baby.
Personally, as much as possible, whether I drink too much or not, I make it a point I have enough milk in store for my baby. That way, even if I pump and dump, he has enough milk to get through the waiting time.
What if you can’t stop drinking?
As a mom, our number priority must be the overall welfare of our child. You know what they say, a mom will do anything and everything just to ensure that her child is healthy and okay. Now, if by chance you have already found yourself craving more and more alcohol, and if you notice that it is already affecting your breastfeeding relationship, then, maybe it’s time to seek a healthcare professional. Perhaps, you already need the help of a counselor as it may already be addiction or leading to that.
You know, while pumping and dumping has been tagged or more popular among breastfeeding moms who drink alcoholic drinks (regularly or occasionally) or are in a situation that will not allow them to keep their milk safe for their baby, if you come to think of it, it still is a process that is beneficial both for the mom and the baby.
For the mom in particular, it helps her get through engorgement, which can really be painful sometimes. Also, it helps her ensure that the next feeding session after drinking alcohol is a safe one. Also, pumping and dumping helps keep the mom’s breast milk supply at par.
Ultimately though, the most ideal is to keep yourself free from alcohol. Personally, I feel guilty at times when I do pump and dump because if you think about it, there are so many babies around the world who needs breastmilk, and here we are, wasting our precious liquid gold because we drank alcoholic drinks.
So, yeah, as I end, while occasional drinking of alcoholic drinks is safe for breastfeeding moms, and that there are other circumstances that will disallow us to feed our babies with our milk leading to pumping and dumping, as much as possible, let’s try our best to secure our liquid gold by leaving free from alcohol as well as ensuring we always have the tools to store our milk properly up until our babies’ wean.