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

Breast pump next to baby.
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In This Article

After nine months of abstaining from alcohol, a glass of wine can be a special treat for some parents. If you're breastfeeding, you might wonder if it's 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).

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"

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). In fact, even moderate drinking can disrupt lactation.

  • 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 away.
  • If you have had only 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 to give your body time to get your blood-alcohol level back to normal before breastfeeding. Also, if you know you're going to be drinking and are worried bout the effects on your infant, consider storing some pumped breastmilk for the occasion.

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

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, if a woman chooses to have an alcoholic drink, they should drink in moderation and consume the beverage just after nursing or expressing rather than before.

Both the AAP and The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommend waiting at least two hours per drink before the next breastfeeding/pumping session to ensure the body has ample time to rid itself of the alcohol before the next feeding.

In addition, La Leche League advises mothers who have been drinking to avoid bed sharing with their infants as their natural reflexes will be affected.

Excessive alcohol consumption has been linked to reduced milk production as well as short- and long-term effects on the infant, including problems with:

  • Sleep
  • Weight gain
  • Early development
  • Fluid retention
  • Hormone imbalances
  • Academic performance later in life

Mothers who drink heavily are also at an increased risk for serious medical consequences, including liver, brain, and heart damage as well as mental health effects, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

If you or a loved one are struggling with substance use or addiction, contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline at 1-800-662-4357 for information on support and treatment facilities in your area.

For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database.

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. Since women tend to have proportionally more body fat and less body water than men, alcohol tends to linger in their systems longer than men.
  • 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. Roughly 20% of the ethanol in liquor is absorbed into the blood from the stomach and the rest from the small intestine. The longer alcohol stays in the stomach, the longer it takes to be absorbed and the slower the rate of intoxication.

For example: If a woman weighs 120 pounds, it will take about two to three hours for the body to eliminate one serving of beer (12 ounces) or one serving of wine (5 ounces). If she has one high-alcohol drink (such as vodka), it could take up to 13 hours for the alcohol to metabolize.

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

  3. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Breastfeeding your baby. Updated March 2019.

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