If you’re breastfeeding or pumping exclusively, you might have heard about pumping and dumping. When should you pump and dump? Here are some reasons why you should pump and dump, along with a few guidelines.
When you pump and dump, you express breastmilk and throw it out without feeding it to your baby. This sounds terrifying when every ounce of breastmilk is like gold. But there are some circumstances in which it’s better to toss your milk instead of giving it to your child. These include:
- When you’ve been drinking alcohol or using recreational drugs
- When you’ve pumped in unsanitary areas
- If you’re having a radioactive thyroid scan
- After taking certain medications
- When you’ve pumped without access to proper milk storage
- After eating foods that you know your baby is sensitive to, like large amounts of caffeine
Alcohol and some drugs make their way into the breastmilk. If infants drink the milk while it contains the substance, their bodies must process it too. But pumping and dumping doesn’t draw out the harmful medication or glass of wine out of your milk.
The primary function of expressing your milk is to keep your supply up. Every time you skip a feeding, you tell your body that it can produce less milk. If you go to bed after a night of drinking and your baby wakes up at 1 for a feed, you’ll need to give your little one pre-pumped milk or formula.
But you’ll probably want to pump to keep your supply regular. You might also need to express milk so that you don’t get engorged because your baby skipped a feeding from the breast. The milk that you pump might still contain alcohol, in which case you should dump it.
How to Pump and Dump
The most common question mothers have about pumping and dumping is likely, “When should you pump and dump after drinking alcohol?” Here are some pump and dump breastfeeding rules.
According to KellyMom, occasionally consuming one to two alcoholic drinks should not harm your baby. The American Academy of Pediatrics explains that mothers should limit their intake to 0.5 grams of alcohol per kilogram of body weight. By these guidelines, a 132-pound woman could drink 2 ounces of hard liquor, two beers or 8 ounces of wine.
The general recommendation is that a mother can breastfeed her baby after drinking the amounts of alcohol listed above if she doesn’t feel intoxicated. If she can safely drive, she can safely nurse the infant.
If she has consumed more alcohol than that in a short period of time or feels drunk, she can wait until she sobers up to feed the child. Pumping and dumping isn’t necessary unless she is skipping a feeding or engorged.
Pumping won’t remove alcohol from the breast. The mother’s metabolism does that. However, it can make you more comfortable and help your production stay level.
Also, research shows that drinking every day while breastfeeding might not be ideal for the infant. It can delay motor skill development and cause baby to gain weight slowly.
Pumping, Dumping and Medication
When should you pump and dump if you’d had surgery or been using a medication? Many pharmaceuticals are safe for breastfeeding babies. You should always check with your infant’s health care provider before nursing while you’re taking medication.
Better yet, contact a board-certified lactation consultant. These professionals specialize in breastfeeding and may have more knowledge about interactions with medication.
If a drug is not safe for a nursing child to consume, you’ll need to know how long the medication will stay in your system. During the time that you’re offering baby formula or stored milk, you might want to pump for comfort or supply reasons. If you suspect that the expressed milk contains the drug, you can dump it.
Why Should You Dump if You Pump in Unsanitary Conditions?
Would you eat lunch in a bathroom? It’s legal to publicly breastfeed in every U.S. state. If you find yourself nursing in the bathroom, it’s still not likely that your milk will be contaminated. Breastmilk contains live antibodies that kill germs, and your nipple is self-cleaning.
However, if you have to pump in extremely unsanitary conditions, the plastic parts or bottle components could become compromised. It’s probably best to toss that milk.
The same goes for milk that was not stored adequately after it was pumped. Breastmilk storage guidelines say that you can store freshly expressed milk:
- Up to 4 hours at room temperature
- Up to 4 days in a refrigerator at 40 degrees Fahrenheit
- Up to 6 to 12 months in the freezer at 0 degrees Fahrenheit or colder
In other words, if you pumped but couldn’t get to the fridge within 4 hours, you might want to dump that milk.
What can you give your child if your breastmilk is compromised during feeding time? A high-quality formula with all of the proper nutrients for your baby’s stage is ideal if you don’t have any other stored breastmilk. European baby formulas are more strictly regulated than American brands. Organic options don’t contain corn syrup or other fillers that could be harmful for a growing child.