When to Pump and Dump

Moms often use the term “pump and dump” to describe the process of pumping breast milk and discarding it.  Moms do this for a variety of reasons and today we’re discussing appropriate times to pump and dump, and some myths that lead mothers to do it unnecessarily.  After all, many new moms consider breast milk to be precious liquid that should be treasured so every ounce can be savored for the benefit of their babies.

The most common myth about when to pump and dump is regarding alcohol consumption.  As you know, everything you eat and drink enters your breast milk, just as it does your bloodstream.  Therefore, if you drink alcohol, your breast milk will have traces of alcohol in it.  Here’s where many moms are misinformed:  pumping breast milk does not remove the alcohol.  Alcohol takes time to break down and leave your system and waiting it out is the only way to eliminate it from your breast milk as well.  How much time is based on how much alcohol you drank and your body size.

When to Pump and DumpWith that said, many moms pump and dump after drinking alcohol when they know they will miss a feeding with their baby and need to express the milk.  Moms may pump because they don’t want to become engorged or don’t want to discourage milk production at that time.  Because the milk will have remnants of alcohol, it should be discarded.  Therefore, pumping and dumping may be wise after having a few cocktails, but not to pump away the alcohol.

There are other times when it may be useful to pump and dump as well.  Like alcohol, some prescription medications may be unsafe for your baby to consume, even in the small amounts that enter breast milk.  If you have to take a temporary course of medication that may be harmful to your baby, pump and dump during this time to keep your milk supply strong.  Try to pump enough milk in advance to ensure your baby has plenty of breast milk during that period.

Some medical testing may also require you to pump and dump for a short time.  The radioactive iodine uptake scan to diagnose hyperthyroidism is one such case.  It is necessary to pump and dump after this test until all radioactive materials have been eliminated from your body.

Pumping and dumping is also smart when you’re unable to verify the sanitation of your breast milk.  For instance, if you are pumping while away from your child but find yourself in a contaminated environment, play it safe and discard the milk.  Similarly, if you have eaten something that is questionable, you have consumed excessive caffeine or you indulged in a food that you know hurts your baby’s stomach, go ahead and pump and dump for your baby’s sake.  Also, breast milk should be refrigerated within 4-6 hours of pumping.  Otherwise it will spoil.  If you cannot store your breast milk properly within this time frame, pump and dump.

The bottom line about when to pump and dump is that the method should not be used for the purpose of rapidly removing toxic or potentially harmful substances from your breast milk.  Only time can cleanse breast milk.  However, pumping and dumping is helpful to avoid engorgement and to ensure milk supply is steady and strong.