You gave up alcohol for nine months or more during your pregnancy, and now that your baby is here, you want nothing more than to pop the cork on your favorite bottle of vino to reward yourself for a job well done. But if you plan to nurse, you may be wondering whether or not an occasional cocktail is safe for your baby. Some will tell you to avoid imbibing all together while you nurse. Others believe that an occasional Guinness can actually help increase your milk supply. If all of the conflicting facts are making your head spin, you may want to know, what is "pumping and dumping?"
According to Slate, pumping and dumping is the process of pumping breast milk and throwing it away. The thought is that you eliminate the alcohol-laced breast milk and leave behind milk that is safe for your baby to drink. But if you're a woman who doesn't produce much milk, you may be hesitant to "dump" any of your precious milk supply. So is "pumping and dumping" really worth it?
According to the Mayo Clinic, alcohol passes through the mother's body and into her breast milk just as it does in her bloodstream. Although it is possible for a breastfeeding mother to safely consume alcohol, there is no universal safe number of drinks. La Leche League International (LLLI) noted that the effects of alcohol on a mother's breast milk are directly related to the amount the mother consumes.
As What to Expect pointed out, approximately 10 percent of the alcohol you consume is removed from your body through sweat, breath, and urine. The rest leaves your system at a rate determined by your individual metabolic rate. According to LLLI, it would take two to three hours for a 120-pound woman to eliminate the alcohol contained in one serving of beer or wine.
Rather than pumping and dumping to remove the alcohol from your breast milk, the Mayo Clinic suggests mothers consume their drinks just after a nursing session to allow time for the alcohol to leave their system before the next feeding. This method, however, can help prevent you from becoming engorged if you plan to skip a feeding.
So even though you don't have to say goodbye to margaritas and mimosas forever, if you plan to nurse, it is important to be mindful of the amount of alcohol you consume for the sake of your baby's safety.