How ‘pumping & dumping’ misses the point

Photo by Rachel Claire on

After months of pregnancy restrictions, I started to dream about having a rare steak dinner with a glass of Malbec. Then when my daughter arrived, the doctor told me that alcohol goes into breast milk… so I ‘better be safe’ and not drink.


Googling around I found the advice to ‘pump and dump’ the milk after you drink to get the alcohol out of your boobs.

This idea sounded good, but it doesn’t make sense. Here’s why:

1. Alcohol will leave your milk naturally (you can’t speed this up)

As your body metabolizes the alcohol out of your blood, it also leaves your milk. Meaning, wait long enough and your milk won’t have alcohol. Conversely, if you pump… it’s still there.

How long you need to wait depends on how much you’ve had. The Mayo Clinic says it takes 2–3 hours after a drink.

2. Very little passes into the milk anyway

review of 41 research papers about booze and breastfeeding found the amount of alcohol in breast milk is similar to the mom’s blood level. If the amount of alcohol going into the milk is minimal, then babies would get a fraction of what the mom had. Specifically, they explained:

  • “The amount of alcohol presented to nursing infants through breast milk is approximately 5–6% of the weight-adjusted maternal dose, and even in a theoretical case of binge drinking, the children would not be subjected to clinically relevant amounts of alcohol.”

Of course, regular binge drinking is a terrible idea for all sorts of reasons.

And for obvious ethical concerns, a structured study where new moms get blitzed and then feed their babies is just not going to happen… so we don’t really know the long-term problems this creates. So I’d be careful here.

But, this paper at least, suggests that “special recommendations aimed at lactating women are not warranted.”

3. Focusing on milk overlooks the real problem

If you’ve really had too much, then the immediate danger to your baby isn’t your milk. It’s you.

Photo by Pixabay on

Just like how you shouldn’t drive, you shouldn’t walk around holding your baby if you’re not functioning properly. Accidentally dropping them or not recognizing signs that your baby needs attention is a real concern that drinking too much creates.

So, if you know you’re headed out for a big night on the town, coordinate with your partner or sitter about who’s the designated caregiver for the night.

And get a game plan for the next day because parenting while hungover is another big challenge.

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