Breastfeeding and Alcohol: Do I Need to Pump and Dump?
Pretty much every nursing mom has heard about pumping and dumping. It’s a topic that comes up frequently during the holiday season. But when you’re breastfeeding or pumping, it feels as though every drop counts. Whoever said there’s no use crying over spilled milk knew nothing about pumping breastmilk and the heartbreak that comes from accidentally spilling an ounce or more in a sleep-deprived haze in the middle of the night.
Unfortunately, there is so much conflicting information out there about drinking and breastfeeding, that many nursing parents feel completely overwhelmed and wind up either abstaining from alcohol altogether or pumping and dumping. The good news is that, so long as you and your baby are healthy, neither of these options may be necessary.
If you are sober enough to drive, you are also sober enough to breastfeed your baby.
The level of alcohol in your breastmilk is the same as the level of alcohol in your blood. In fact, less than 2% of the alcohol consumed will reach your blood and milk. Furthermore, alcohol normally peaks in the blood and breastmilk within 30 minutes to an hour after consumption.
Of course, there are other factors to take into account–your weight and percentage of body fat, amount of food eaten at the same time, liver health, and others. The baby’s age is another important consideration, as babies’ livers are more immature until about 3 months of age; before that point, they detoxify alcohol at roughly half the rate of adults.
So, what should you do? Well, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends waiting 2 hours or more after drinking before nursing your baby. You could finish a feeding or pumping session first and then have a drink, to give your body enough time to metabolize the alcohol before the next time you have to nurse or pump.
Alcohol does not accumulate and remain in your breastmilk, but fades over time just as it does in your bloodstream.
Pumping and dumping, then, is not strictly necessary. So if you will be away from your child for any significant amount of time, do your best to pump as often as the baby would be eating. This will ensure your supply does not suffer while also avoiding unpleasant complications like engorgement, plugged ducts, or even mastitis.
If you are still feeling a little uncomfortable with breastfeeding and drinking, you can, of course, choose to pump and dump. Make sure you have a stash of pumped or expressed milk available so your baby will still be able to eat when hungry. Parenting is difficult and you already make plenty of sacrifices. So go ahead, have that New Year’s Eve champagne. You don’t have to miss out on having a bit of a social life just because you’re nursing.