Pump and Dump While Breastfeeding

Woman pumping milk from breast

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If you're thinking about breastfeeding or are currently nursing, you've likely heard of the rhyming phrase "pump and dump." The definition is just as it sounds: To pump or express breastmilk from your breasts and then to immediately dump it (down the drain, for instance) instead of saving it for your baby.

But why would a breastfeeding mom decide to do such a thing, especially considering the time and effort required to get this "liquid gold"? Here's when it's necessary (and not) to pump and dump your breastmilk.

Pumping and Dumping After Drinking Alcohol 

Some moms choose to pump and dump after drinking alcohol. This practice is not necessary unless you are concerned that a missed feeding will affect your supply or if you are experiencing engorgement. It won't decrease your blood-alcohol level any faster.

After a period of waiting after drinking, you can safely resume breastfeeding without expressing your milk.

Breastfeeding and Mother's Medications

Another occasion when pumping and dumping might be necessary is when you take certain medications. Certain medicines (though not all) can be transmitted to the baby through breastmilk and the effects may be harmful depending on the drug.

Some doctors may be overly cautious in saying that it's necessary to pump and dump, so check with a certified lactation consultant who may have more information regarding that particular medication's effects on your breast milk and the baby.

More Breastfeeding Terms

Learn the meanings behind some other terms commonly used by breastfeeding moms:

  • Engorgement: Fullness and enlargement of the breasts caused by an overfull of milk.
  • Foremilk: Thin and watery like skim milk that leaves the breast first during breastfeeding or pumping.
  • Hindmilk: Thick and rich higher-fat milk excreted later during breastfeeding or pumping as the breast drains.
  • Latching on: The term used to describe the way your baby attaches to your breast to nurse. How your baby latches on can determine how successful you will be at breastfeeding.
  • Let-down (milk ejection reflex): Often described as a tingling or warm feeling in the breast, let-down occurs when the baby’s sucking action sends a message to the brain. Oxytocin causes the myoepithelial cells, which surround the alveoli (or tiny sacs in which milk is stored and secreted), to contract so that the milk is forced out into the ductules (which act as little filters from the alveoli). The milk is then pushed along to the lactiferous sinuses, which are extensions of the ducts under the areola that store milk. 

By Jennifer White
Jennifer White has authored parenting books and has worked in childcare and education fields for over 15 years.