What Does Pump and Dump Mean?

What does it mean to pump and dump your breast milk?
Do you have to pump and dump?. Jaime Grill/Photographer's Choice/Getty Images

What Does Pump and Dump Mean?

The phrase 'pump and dump' refers to the act of removing breast milk from your breasts and throwing it away instead of giving it to your baby or storing it to use at a later time.

Why Would You Pump and Dump?

You may have to pump and dump your breast milk if you need to pump to relieve engorgement, but you don't have the proper breast milk storage equipment with you.  You may also pump your breast milk then discard it if you have to pump in an area that isn't clean.


Another reason you may decide to pump and dump is if you want to try to maintain your supply of breast milk during a time when you are temporarily unable to breastfeed your baby. For example, if your doctor puts you on a short-term course of medication that is not compatible with breastfeeding or if you go out for an evening that includes drinking more than one alcoholic beverage.  

Do You Have To Pump and Dump If You Have A Drink Of Alcohol?

If you drink alcohol, the amount you drink will determine if you need to pump and dump your breast milk. If you have only one drink, you don't have to pump and dump. You can plan it so that you have your alcoholic beverage right after you breastfeed.  Then, if you wait 2 hours before breastfeeding again, you should be fine.  The 2-hour wait between your 1 drink and breastfeeding will give the alcohol enough time to leave your blood stream and your breast milk.


However, if you have more than one alcoholic beverage, you should wait 2 hours for each drink that you have before you breastfeed your baby.  For example, if you have 2 drinks wait about 4 hours, for 3 drinks don't nurse for 6 hours, etc.  So, depending on how much you have to drink and your baby's age, you may have to pump and dump.

 If your baby is older and can go longer without breastfeeding, or he's sleeping through the night, you may not need to pump and dump. But, if you have a young infant who's nursing every 2 to 3 hours, you will probably need to pump and dump just to relieve the pressure in your breasts.  

Do You Have To Pump and Dump If You Take Medication?

You don't have to pump and dump with all medications. Many medications are safe to take while you're nursing.  Of course, you should always talk to your doctor before starting any new medications and be sure that your doctor knows that you're breastfeeding.  If possible, your doctor will recommend or prescribe a medication that you can take while you're nursing. 

If you do need to take a short-term medication that is not compatible with breastfeeding, you can pump and dump until you complete that course of medication. Once the medication is no longer in your body, and your doctor says it is safe, you can begin breastfeeding again. Pumping and dumping can help you to keep up your milk supply while you aren't breastfeeding.

 It may be inconvenient, but it's usually easier to get back to breastfeeding if you try to maintain your supply of breast milk rather than having to try to rebuild it. 


American Academy of Pediatrics. New Mother’s Guide To Breastfeeding. Bantam Books. New York. 2011.

Ho E., Collantes A., Kapur BM., Moretti M., Koren G. Alcohol and Breast Feeding: Calculation of Time to Zero Level in Milk. Neonatology. 2001; 80: 219-222.

Lawrence, Ruth A., MD, Lawrence, Robert M., MD. Breastfeeding A Guide For The Medical Profession Seventh Edition.  Mosby. 2011.

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