Drinking And Pumping: The Do's and Don'ts

What are the rules about breastfeeding after consuming alcohol?

Breast pump next to baby.
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After nine months of abstaining from alcohol, a glass of wine often seems like a long-awaited treat to a new mom. But is it safe to have a drink while your baby is nursing? And if you do indulge, should you "pump and dump," or throw out your breast milk after drinking alcohol, to protect your baby from ingesting it? 

Ladies, the idea that "pumping and dumping" rids your breast milk of alcohol is a complete myth.

Alcohol leaves your breast milk at the same rate it leaves your bloodstream, so the only way to rid your body of it is to let time do its job. Dumping your milk won't make the alcohol leave your system faster. 

Luckily, that means that you should be able to enjoy the occasional alcoholic beverage from time to time without fear of harming your baby, provided you drink responsibly and allow your body time to rid your breast milk of alcohol before nursing.  

Besides that, there are a couple more guidelines when it comes to drinking and pumping. 

The One Reason to Pump and Dump

There is one good reason to "pump and dump" your breast milk after you have finished drinking alcohol. If you've recently had a drink and it's feeding time, you may have to "pump" to prevent engorgement of your breasts and maintain your supply—and "dump" the milk that's tainted with alcohol. So essentially, if you need to express milk for any reason during the time you're waiting for the alcohol to leave your system, the breast milk pumped during this time should be thrown out.

If you aren't bothered by the lapse of feedings, then the simplest thing to do is give yourself time and allow your blood-alcohol levels to return to normal. But remember, pumping and dumping will not speed up how your body processes alcohol out of your system. 

Breastfeeding After Drinking Alcohol

The most important thing to keep in mind if you decide to drink is that it takes several hours for alcohol to leave your system.

And this varies depending upon the following factors:

  • Your body weight
  • How much alcohol you drank over a period of time
  • The amount of alcohol in your beverage of choice

According to the La Leche League, it takes a 120-pound woman about two to three hours to eliminate one serving of beer (12 ounces) or one serving of wine (5 ounces) from her body. For one high-alcohol drink (vodka, for instance) it can take up to 13 hours for a 120-pound woman to eliminate the alcohol.

Does Alcohol Build Milk Supply?

The myth that alcohol builds milk supply is a pretty old one, based largely on opinion instead of valid research. In fact, some studies show that the exact opposite is true: Downing that bottle of beer or glass of wine can decrease your breast milk supply and inhibit milk letdown.

If you'd like to learn more about how what you consume affects your milk supply, you may want to check out these articles on caffeine and breastfeeding, how much water you should be drinking, several things you may be doing unknowingly that decrease your milk supply, and whether your diet can give your baby food allergies. 

Sources

La Leche League International. What about drinking alcohol and breastfeeding? 

Mayo Clinic. Infant and Toddler Health. "I'm breastfeeding. Is it OK to drink alcohol?" Elizabeth LaFleur, R.N.

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