Breastfeeding is hard enough, let’s not make it more difficult by falling pray to longstanding myths. One of the biggest myths is the idea that, on occasion, women need to “pump and dump” – meaning they need to express milk and dump it in the drain.
It usually stems from a misunderstanding related to alcohol.
“There’s a misunderstanding of alcohol consumption and lactation with the myth that you must ‘pump and dump” to ‘rid’ your body of alcohol,” says Allyson Murphy, IBCLC, founder of Lactation Ally. “This is unnecessary because alcohol leaves the milk supply in the same way that it leaves the bloodstream. The general recommendation is to wait two hours after one alcoholic beverage before nursing or pumping again. It’s also important to remember serving sizes mean a 5 oz glass of wine, 12 oz of regular beer or 1.5 oz of hard liquor.”
Pump and dumping because of medication is not always necessary, either.
Sometimes doctors or pharmacists recommend a nursing parent should ‘pump and dump’ because of a medication the parent must take. “Unfortunately they frequently give this recommendation without actually looking up the latest research on the drug and without thinking about how this can derail the nursing relationship. Bad advice like this often leads to weaning early or unnecessary formula supplementation,” says Murphy. “It’s important to know that most medications are compatible with breastfeeding. If you’re prescribed something that is not compatible with nursing, always ask if there is an alternative drug that might have the same effectiveness and also be safe for your baby.”
Murphy suggests looking up the safety of any medication through the Infant Risk Center. “It’s run by Dr. Thomas Hale who literally writes the book on medications and human milk.” Access them through their website, their Mommy Meds app, or their free hotline staffed 8 AM-5 PM CST, Monday- Friday, (806) 352-2519.
If you DO need to pump because of a medication — never dump!
Murphy suggests dating the milk and labeling it as “do not feed.” “Save it for milk baths and diaper rash. It has amazing healing properties for skin and you won’t feel like you’re ‘wasting’ it.”
There are times you do want to pump – though not necessarily dump.
If you’re going to be away from your baby — whether it’s an afternoon for an appointment or a week for a trip, Murphy says mothers should pump at the same times your baby would eat to communicate to your body the need to keep up the current milk supply. “If you’re away for a few hours, milk can be safely stored in a cooler bag with ice packs for up to 24 hours. If you’re traveling for a few days, request a mini-fridge in your hotel to store milk, then bring it home in the cooler bag with ice packs. You’re allowed to bring human milk with you on airplanes, according to TSA rules.”
There are NO foods that automatically need to be avoided because someone is breastfeeding.
And yes, that includes dairy, sushi, cold cuts and soy though Murphy notes that some herbs, like sage and peppermint, are known to lower milk supply, so they should be avoided or used in moderation. As mentioned alcohol is considered safe in moderation (1-2 drinks per week) as is caffeine (1-2 cups (8 oz) per day according to Murphy).