Hooray! You brought a baby into this world, and it is time to take your little one home. Some time goes by and you begin to feel like you’re getting the hang of this “mom” thing. You’re doing the late nights, trying to manage with no sleep. You are starting to feed in public and getting used to the bond that comes with nursing. Getting into the swing of it all is so exciting, and it’s time to celebrate with that glass of wine or champagne you have been waiting to have all this time.
Before you pop that bottle, you check some parenting websites. So many tell you the same thing: if you are drinking you have to pump and dump your breast milk. Wanting to provide your baby with the best possible milk, and avoid any possible complications, you take that advice. Maybe you decide this isn’t worth it and choose to hold off on the bubbly until after your baby doesn’t need your milk.
You don’t need to pump and dump.
Yes, you read that right, there is no need to pump and dump. While many popular baby blogs are skeptical of this idea, it is not necessary to waste that milk. While it is true that a mother is passing her nutrients onto her baby through her milk such as sugars, fats, and proteins, this does not work the same for every drop of alcohol. While a mother is still breastfeeding, the amount of alcohol consumed does not all end up in the milk. Even if a mother drinks to get drunk, the amount of alcohol in her breast milk is still very small compared to what she had.
While it is not recommended nursing mothers drink in excess, there is varying information on how much a mother can drink without it being harmful to their baby. Mother.ly addresses there are varying opinions saying mothers can have 1-2 drinks per day or 1-2 drinks per week. The CDC says that one drink per day is an appropriate amount when breastfeeding. When only having a small amount of alcohol, it is safe to still breastfeed, and you do not need to pump and dump. The only real reason to pump and dump is if there is engorgement present and there is no way to easily feed your baby or if there are issues storing the milk.
Why does this idea continue?
One reason the pump and dump phenomenon is still so prevalent is because it is a fairly complicated idea to understand. The science behind it may be difficult for mothers to understand, so they may just decide the practice is safer than risking something they can’t completely grasp. When something as important as your little one’s health is at stake, if every other article is giving you a different answer, it is not a surprise that mothers are being cautious. There is not simply one article, blog, or study that is going to provide all the same answers, so there is so much conflicting evidence that is concerning for many mothers, and what may seem like “fact,” is actually not as true as it seems.
The number of eyes mothers have on them for each and every decision they make also creates a pressure to be “the perfect mom.” Women constantly compare themselves to other mothers. There is a huge amount of judgment in the mom community based off of differing practices and opinions, and while one mother may see the science behind pumping and dumping as inaccurate, another mother may judge this as senseless and selfish, pressuring a mother into following cultural trends which are unnecessary.
Tools for drinking while breastfeeding
There are formulas created for alcohol with breastfeeding. These formulas measure factors like the number of drinks consumed, the baby’s weight, the percentage of the alcohol consumed, and try to determine how long a mother should wait after drinking to breastfeed, based on these factors. This seems like an awesome way to judge how much time it will take to clear the alcohol from a mother’s system, leading to milk that will have avoided alcohol consumption, right?
Wrong, these formulas depend on the mother ending with zero alcohol in her system. As we have discussed, there is no scientific evidence to support this as necessary. If a woman has a glass of champagne or a beer, she does not need to follow a formula to know when she can feed her baby, as there is not enough alcohol in her system to affect the baby. Her precious resource is being wasted based off of this formula, which is a more concerning issue.
Forget the pump if you had a small amount of alcohol, you do not need to waste that milk. Don’t worry that you’re hurting your baby because of mommy-shamers, or a blog with conflicting information. Pour the glass, sit back, and kick those feet up. You deserve it, mama!