The Do's and Don'ts of Pumping and Drinking

Breast pump next to baby.
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After nine months of abstaining from alcohol, a glass of wine can be a special treat for some parents. If you are nursing, you might wonder if it is safe to have a drink and still breastfeed when it's time, or whether you need to "pump and dump (throw out your breast milk after drinking alcohol).

The idea that "pumping and dumping" rids your breast milk of alcohol is a myth (as is the theory that alcohol can improve your milk supply).

Alcohol leaves your breast milk at the same rate that it leaves your bloodstream. The only way to rid your body of alcohol is to let time do its job. Pumping won't make the alcohol leave your milk supply (or your body) any faster.

Provided that you drink responsibly and let your body have the time it needs to metabolize the alcohol you have consumed before you nurse, you can enjoy an occasional alcoholic beverage without worrying about harming your baby.

When to "Pump and Dump"

If you've recently had a drink and realize it's the time when you would normally feed your infant, you might have to pump to prevent breast engorgement and maintain your milk supply.

If you have reached a level of intoxication that makes it unsafe for you to hold your baby for a feeding, you will need to pump. The milk expressed at this time should be thrown out.

If you have only had one drink and are sober enough to safely handle your baby, it might not be necessary for you to "pump and dump."

The simplest thing to do is give your body time to get your blood-alcohol level back to normal before breastfeeding. Remember: "pumping and dumping" will not speed up how your body processes alcohol or get it out of your milk supply any faster.

What Experts Say

"If a woman chooses to have an alcoholic drink, it’s best to do so just after she has nursed or expressed milk rather than before, and allow at least 2 hours per drink before the next breastfeeding or pumping session. That way, the body has as much time as possible to rid itself of the alcohol before the next feeding.

There are concerns about long-term, repeated exposures of infants to alcohol via mother’s milk, so moderation is definitely advised. Chronic consumption of alcohol may also reduce milk production."

— The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommendations on breastfeeding and alcohol consumption (July 2020)

When You Can Breastfeed After Drinking Alcohol?

It takes several hours for alcohol to leave your system. The time it takes will depend on many factors, including:

  • How much alcohol you drank over a specific period of time. The more you have to drink, the longer it will take to metabolize.
  • How much you weigh. A lower body weight generally means a slower metabolism of alcohol.
  • The amount of alcohol in your beverage of choice. For example, beer typically has about 5% alcohol, while spirits have about 40%.
  • Whether you have eaten. Your body absorbs less alcohol if you have food along with your drinks.

Here's an example: for a woman who weighs 120 pounds, it takes her body about two to three hours to eliminate one serving of beer (12 ounces) or one serving of wine (5 ounces).

If she had one high-alcohol drink (such as vodka), it could take up to 13 hours for the alcohol to metabolize.

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  1. American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders Program. Frequently Asked Questions. Updated July 2020.

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