Before you waste breast milk unnecessarily, learn these pump and dump rules to know when it is ok to breastfeed and which situations might mean you dump your breast milk.
What Do You Mean By “Pump and Dump?”
The term “pump and dump” refers to the practice of pumping breast milk and dumping it out rather than feeding it to your baby. That may seem like a waste of valuable milk, but there are some situations where it’s necessary. There are other situations where some many believe it’s necessary, but it’s not. It is important to learn the pump and dump rules that will keep you and your baby safe without wasting milk unnecessarily.
Basic Pump and Dump Rules for New Moms
Rule #1: Alcohol Consumption
Alcohol can make its way into your breast milk, especially if you drink a lot at one time or are a frequent drinker. Many new moms assume that they must pump and dump their milk to eliminate the alcohol, but that’s not necessary. The alcohol will leave your breast milk as it leaves your body. There are a few general pump and dump rules to follow:
- Wait at least two hours after drinking to breastfeed your baby or pump milk that your baby will consume. You don’t need to pump and dump before feeding your baby, but you may choose to do so to prevent engorgement and leaking.
- Wait until the physical and mental effects of the alcohol have worn off completely before breastfeeding or pumping milk that your baby will consume. The more you drink, the longer you will likely have to wait, so think about creating a freezer stash or refrigerator storage in advance of any long nights out that may require a longer recovery time.
- It’s best to drink no more than two drinks per week when breastfeeding. Larger volumes of alcohol will restrict the amount of time that you’re available to safely breastfeed and will make it difficult to feed your baby on demand or on a consistent schedule.( Koren, 2002)
Rule #2: Recreational Drugs
Recreational drug use is a danger to your life and health, but the risks are doubled when you’re breastfeeding. Even a small amount of a drug can pass to your baby through your breast milk and can endanger the health and well-being of your baby. Some drugs are lethal for small babies while others may lead to painful withdrawal symptoms.
Think about the way your body reacts to a drug. Your baby’s body will react in the same way but with more extreme outcomes because their developing, sensitive bodies aren’t prepared to process the drug. If you’ve developed a high tolerance for a drug, remember that your baby has no tolerance. (Breastfeeding Review, Vol. 6, No. 2, 1998 Aug: 27-30)
If you do choose to use recreational drugs while breastfeeding, follow these rules to minimize the risk to your baby:
- Never breastfeed your baby while under the influence of any drug that wasn’t prescribed by your doctor and approved for safe use while breastfeeding. Pump and dump your milk at the times your baby would normally feed to eliminate contaminated milk and keep your milk supply from decreasing.
- Don’t assume that marijuana products with even a little THC are safe while breastfeeding, even if marijuana has been legalized where you live. THC is still an intoxicating substance that can have a negative impact on your developing baby.
- You can resume breastfeeding when your body is relieved of all trace elements of your recreational drugs. If you’re a daily drug user, you should discuss safety with your doctor. You may need to bottle feed if you continuously take drugs to avoid withdrawal symptoms.
Rule #3: Medical Procedures & Prescription Medication
If you need a medical procedure that requires injecting a substance into your veins or taking a drug by mouth, you may need to wait a period of time before breastfeeding. For example, you may have dye inserted into your veins before having a CT scan, or you may need radioactive iodine when having your thyroid scanned.
Some prescription medications are also dangerous while breastfeeding. It’s important to understand whether each of your medications will make it into your breast milk and if they present any harm to your baby, especially if you take them daily.
The rules are simple with this one:
- Make sure the doctor prescribing your medical procedure is aware that you’re breastfeeding. Tell anyone administering your test so they’re aware as well. Also discuss your breastfeeding concerns each time a new medication is prescribed or your dosage is increased. Don’t assume your doctor will remember you’re still breastfeeding, especially if that doctor doesn’t also care for your baby.
- Ask questions regarding breastfeeding and your medical condition and the test. That includes understanding the safety of any prescription medications in addition to the procedure you’re going to undergo. Ask when it’s safe to resume breastfeeding and what the potential risks are for your baby.
- Follow doctor recommendations without modification for convenience. If you need to wait 24 or 48 hours after the procedure to breastfeed, then make plans ahead of time to ensure your baby has milk in storage for that period of time. You will need to pump and dump at your baby’s regularly scheduled feeding times to ensure your milk is safe and your milk supply isn’t impacted.
Rule #4: Sanitary Concerns
There are times when you may question the cleanliness of your surrounding environment, the water you’ve consumed, or the foods you’ve eaten. You may show signs of food poisoning or other illnesses caused by bacteria, viruses, or other problems with your food, drink, or air supply.
Many breastfeeding moms will never have to worry about that, but you may if you’re traveling or you experience a natural disaster. In those cases, it’s always best to pump and dump if you’re uncertain. Try to check with a medical professional for guidance, but if that’s not possible, pumping and dumping is better than potentially putting your baby at risk.
You May Not Need to Ever Dump Breast Milk
If you don’t use recreational drugs, rarely consume more than a drink or two at a time, and aren’t traveling or undergoing any unusual medical treatments, you likely will have no reason to pump and dump breast milk. If special circumstances arise and you’re uncertain, contact your doctor or pediatrician to ask questions. It helps to keep your freezer stash full because you never know when something unexpected may come up.