The Science Behind The “Pump & Dump” Myth, Because There's No Need To Waste Your Milk

By
Share
Ad failed to load

One thing you realize pretty quickly after getting pregnant is that there are an awful lot of things you're told to give up. Sushi, unpasteurized cheese, deli meat, caffeine, and certain medications can all potentially cause problems for your growing child, and certain habits — like drinking or smoking — can have serious effects on a baby's development. The long-held popular opinion about alcohol was that breastfeeding women should avoid it, too, and if they do have a glass of wine or two, they should pump out the alcohol-laden breastmilk after drinking to avoid passing it on to their child. But the science behind the "pump & dump" myth makes it clear that, well, there's really no need to do that at all. That's because while alcohol does pass into breastmilk easily, it doesn't just collect there until it's pumped out.

According to Slate, alcohol passes into breastmilk at roughly the same concentration as it does in blood. That means that when you have a drink, and your blood alcohol content increases — peaking approximately 30-45 minutes later — the alcohol content in your milk is at more or less the same level. Both the alcohol in your blood and the alcohol in your breastmilk then begin to decrease as you return back to your normal sober state, meaning that if you wait long enough to pump after drinking, there's no reason whatsoever to throw it out.

Ad failed to load

So how do you know how long to wait? It depends. According to the Mayo Clinic, it takes about two to three hours for 12 ounces of 5 percent beer to clear your system, and roughly the same among of time for 5 ounces of 11 percent wine or 1.5 ounces of 40 percent liquor. That will differ though depending on body weight, so if you want a more specific guideline, the Motherisk program at The Hospital For Sick Children in Toronto, Canada, offers mothers a table to help determine approximately how long it will take for alcohol to be eliminated from breastmilk.

The table measures the amount of time it takes for alcohol to clear breastmilk from the point at which a woman starts drinking based on weight and the number of drinks she's had, using the average rate of alcohol metabolism for someone who is average height. For example, it takes the average 140-pound woman about 4 hours and 38 minutes to clear two 5-ounce glasses of wine, so a breastfeeding mom who starts drinking at 8:00 p.m. Friday night should wait until at least 12:38 a.m. before breastfeeding her baby.

Ad failed to load

That doesn't mean you need to completely freak out if you happened to breastfeed your child at 10:30 p.m. though. While alcohol does pass easily into breastmilk, only a relative small amount of what mom actually drinks would get passed on to baby. According to Slate, even if a 150-pound woman were to drink four glasses of wine and then breastfeed her 13-pound baby about 4 ounces of milk when her blood alcohol level has spiked half an hour later, "her baby will end up with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.0038 percent," or roughly what the same 150-pound woman's blood alcohol level would be after drinking only about one-eight of a 12-ounce light beer.

Of course, there are other things to consider when deciding whether or not to drink when nursing. Firstly, there is no established "safe" amount of alcohol in breastmilk, according to the Mayo Clinic, so breastfeeding your child after drinking isn't risk-free, even if you wait. Then there's the fact that co-sleeping with your child after drinking can also be dangerous, and that you are also more likely to accidentally hurt your child (by dropping them, or falling while holding them, for example), if you have alcohol in your system, according to Slate.

Ad failed to load

For all moms who have lamented the loss of what could have been otherwise perfectly good breastmilk as a result of a date night pump and dump, the good news is that you will no longer need to waste that liquid gold. But pumping and dumping isn't completely without value: having to hold off on nursing for hours isn't exactly comfortable, so if you know you have to wait long enough that engorgement is going to be a problem, pumping and dumping will probably help a lot.

Ad failed to load
Must Reads

8 Things That *Will* Go Wrong Every Time You Plan A Kid-Free Night

The last time my husband and I went out to dinner alone was… actually, I can’t remember. But I can count on one hand how many times I’ve seen a movie in a theater in the last year. Before we had children we used to go out all the time. But even with …
By Liza Wyles

These Photos Of North West Then & Now Will Take You On A Sweet Trip Down Memory Lane

When Kim Kardashian welcomed her first daughter, North West, with her husband, Kanye West, in 2013, her whole life was changed. The social media and reality TV star became a mom for the first time and her Instagram presence took a very adorable turn.…
By Casey Suglia

11 Photos You *Must* Take During The Last Days Of Your Pregnancy

During my first pregnancy, I took a photo each week to document my growing belly. I stopped around 36 weeks, though. I hated how I looked in those pictures, and didn't think I'd want to relive those moments. I was wrong. My second pregnancy was a dum…
By Steph Montgomery

This Is What It Means If Your Pregnancy Test Changes Overnight

The time between when a woman suspects she might be pregnant and when it is confirmed for sure is the longest of her life. Regardless of whether you are hoping for a positive or a negative result, the odds are good that you are sweating bullets when …
By Shannon Evans

6 Red Flags To Definitely Look Out For After Your Baby Falls

The first time my infant son tried to take a few steps, he tumbled and bumped his head on the coffee table. My blood turned to ice in my veins and I froze. There truly isn't anything quite like the feeling a parent gets when their little one gets hur…
By Sarah Bunton

These 9 Instant Pot Recipes Will Make Even The Pickiest Eater Happy At The Table

Like any parent, I've had my share of parenting hits and misses, but one of my favorite "wins" is my daughter's diverse palate. I don't even know if I can take credit for it, but I would like to think I had something to do with her love for lentils, …
By Caroline Shannon-Karasik

Turns Out, Kim Kardashian's Favorite Mom Products Look A Lot Like Your Own Faves

Being a mom is really hard work, especially for the first few months, and Kim Kardashian West is no different in that regard. Now the mother of three, Kardashian says that there are a few products she just can't live without when it comes to raising …
By Abi Berwager Schreier

Soda Might Hurt Your Fertility, Study Says, & Here's What You Can Do

Who doesn't love sugary drinks? I stopped drinking soda years ago, but I still love gulping down those fancy Starbucks coffee beverages. I don't have a big sweet tooth, but I am a sucker for sugar-sweetened beverages every now-and-then. Turns out, th…
By Annamarya Scaccia

10 Things No One Tells You About Having A Baby In Your 30s

If you're like me, you evaluate the pros and cons of any major life decision. When my husband and I were considering starting a family, I thought about my career, education, and financial stability. I wanted to know how a pregnancy and childbirth wou…
By Steph Montgomery

This Woman Thought She Had An Eyelash Stuck In Her Eye. Then It Moved.

I'm not a person who is easily icked out. As a kid, I collected bugs and thought I was going to be an entomologist and asked Santa Claus for ant farms and nets to catch bees. I'm still super curious about anything that flies and crawls, which might s…
By Karen Fratti

5 Red Flags Your Toddler Isn't Eating Enough

Toddlers are notoriously picky eaters, at least in my experience. You offer mashed potatoes, they want french fries. You give them crackers, they scream for chips. It's frustrating, to be sure, but it's usually their way of vying for independence. It…
By Candace Ganger

11 Ways Your Pregnancy Will Be Different If You Have A Boy Vs A Girl

If you've been pregnant before, you might start comparing your previous pregnancies to that of your current pregnancy. A lot of things can change from pregnancy to pregnancy, based on a whole host of different factors (including how well you remember…
By Lauren Schumacker

35 Moms Share The Most Disgusting Things Their Husbands Do

I'm a human being who revels in challenges. I like when people present me with one, especially if they don't think I can meet or succeed it, and I like taking a challenge on, especially if it's unexpected. So when I aimed to uncover the most disgusti…
By Jamie Kenney

How Having Kids In Your 20s Affects You Later In Life

For parents, like myself, who had kids in their 20s, there are a number of questions that come to mind. When you're deciding what your future will look like, you'll likely consider what this means for your health, career, and more down the line. Thin…
By Tessa Shull

12 Moms Share How They Stay Healthy During Flu Season

Unfortunately, we're in the middle of the roughest flu seasons in recent memory. And we’re not totally out of the woods, either. People around the country are still getting the flu, and, sadly, some of them are having to be hospitalized due to flu-re…
By Priscilla Blossom

8 "Mistakes" I'm Glad I Made During My First Pregnancy

As an adult, I've learned you never really stop hating being told what to do. When I was pregnant I was getting instructions at every turn, from doctors, relatives, and complete strangers on the subway. I would nod and smile but then go about making …
By Liza Wyles

Study: Drinking Two Glasses Of Wine A Day Is Good For Your Mind — Here's Why

There’s more scientific proof that a daily drink or two isn't necessarily a bad thing and could have a place in an overall healthy lifestyle. A new study out of the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) in New York found that — in mice, at le…
By Tiffany Thomas

Research Says Eating Carbs Can Lead To A Healthy Pregnancy, So Bring On The Pasta

In the world of me, no food is better than bread. I know it's supposed to be pretty terrible for you, high in calories, low in protein, and full of that modern-day demon, gluten... but guys, it's really yummy. Especially warm out of the oven, when th…
By Jen McGuire

These Photos Of Prince George Then & Now Will Give You Serious Baby Fever

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are expecting their third child in Spring 2018. With all of the excitement surrounding the new baby, it's easy to forget all of the good times that have already passed. The couple's eldest is already well into the sc…
By Azure Hall

This Is, Hands Down, The *Grossest* Thing Babies Do Inside The Womb

Your baby's life in the womb may be safe and warm, but it's also kind of grody. Seriously, the whole process of growing into a human being includes more than a few icky moments along the way. But this is the grossest thing babies do inside the womb b…
By Lindsay E. Mack