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Breastfeeding and Alcohol

Pump and Dump

This is a common question asked by mothers who want to have an occasional night out with the girls: Do I have to pump and dump?
If you decide to have a cocktail or two, it is not necessary for you to pump and dump your breast milk after you have finished drinking. However, if you are experiencing engorgement or pain, then you should pump the milk and dump it out for the sake of your comfort. Although the alcohol will be passed to your breast milk, you do not have to pump and dump to remove the alcohol from your milk supply. Even if you don't pump, the alcohol will be removed from the milk once your blood alcohol levels have returned to normal.
However, if you do need to pump after drinking to help relieve engorgement, you should throw out this milk. You should not breastfeed your infant until the levels of alcohol in your breast milk have declined. If you do need to feed your baby before this occurs, then it's a good idea to express milk beforehand (see The Whys and Hows of Expressing Breast Milk).
The amount of time it takes for alcohol to leave your system will vary, depending on a variety of factors, such as how much you weigh, how much alcohol you consumed over a period of time, and the amount of alcohol that was in your beverage(s). In general, you should avoid breastfeeding for at least several hours after drinking. Even without pumping and dumping, the alcohol will be removed from your breast milk once your blood alcohol levels are back to normal.

Drinking Wisely

The decision as to whether you drink while breastfeeding will be a personal one. Contrary to the folklore that drinking some alcoholic beverages may be beneficial, current research suggests that it may be counterproductive.
However, having an occasional drink to relax may not be a bad thing. The stress of being a new mom, the anxieties of trying to do everything perfectly, and other worries can weigh down on mothers. Still, drinking responsibly and in moderation are important, as exposing your little one to alcohol may lead to sleep problems, reduced milk intake, and other negative effects.
Research has not looked at how many women stop breastfeeding because they want to have a drink or two every now and then. So if breastfeeding is important to you but you still want to have that occasional drink, just drink wisely.
Having some breast milk stored away is a great idea. You can use it to feed your baby without the risk of exposing them to alcohol. If you become engorged during the time you are waiting for blood alcohol levels to return to normal, you can always pump and dump. This will help to keep your milk supply up.
Bottom line -- if you decide to drink while breastfeeding, do it wisely. It can affect your child in adverse ways, so it is helpful to just be knowledgeable about it. Waiting until your blood alcohol levels are back to normal and pumping and dumping when needed can give you the ability to breastfeed your child and still enjoy an adult beverage from time to time without beating yourself up over it.
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