Breastfeeding Myths: Pump and Dump

breastfeedingcafecarnivalWelcome to The Breastfeeding Cafe Carnival!

This post was written as part of the Breastfeeding Cafe’s Carnival. For more info on the Breastfeeding Cafe, go to For more info on the Carnival or if you want to participate, contact Claire at clindstrom2 {at} gmail {dot} com. Today’s post is about breastfeeding myths and dispelling them. Please read the other blogs in today’s carnival listed below and check back for more posts July 22nd through August 4th!


This post actually aims to dispel two breastfeeding myths. First, that drinking beer stimulates lactation, and second, that moms who drink to intoxication need to pump and dump their milk.

While I was researching an article for a parenting magazine, I got the opportunity to share one of my early breastfeeding in public stories with the medical director of the Breastfeeding Center of Pittsburgh, Nancy Brent.

Partially because people told me a nice dark beer would stimulate milk production and partly because I wanted a damn beer after 10 months of abstention, I took my newborn to the Pittsburgh Irish Festival. I had already mastered nursing him in the baby carrier (he was not-put-downable, so this strategy allowed me to do things like pee and make sandwiches), so I was doing that while I ordered and drank a lovely Irish stout. People noticed.

But I didn’t care, because I was out in the fresh air and Gaelic Storm was playing.

Dr. Brent had this to say in response to my story: “Breastfeeding mothers can have a drink or two per week, but persistent drinking can have negative effects on milk supply.” Also, “Pumping and dumping does not help to get rid of alcohol. If you’re inebriated and it’s time for baby to eat, you cannot nurse the baby.”

So, first, this notion that drinking dark beer can help with milk production. The idea comes from the thinking that barley is a galactagogue, a food that stimulates milk production. Actually, the alcohol in the beer cancels out any positive effects moms might get from the barley. Brent says, “beer can decrease milk supply and make babies sleepier, so they take less milk. Persistent drinking can lead to chronic low supply and a baby who’s not growing well. This is not from the occasional drink. Generally, 1 to 2 drinks per week is fine.”

What mama might notice while indulging in her semiweekly tipple is that she actually feels sorta tipsy, even from just one drink. This is because abstaining for so many months of pregnancy will lower a mother’s tolerance for metabolizing the alcohol.

Moms with new babies might actually be drunk from half a beer.

Brent explains something called passive diffusion, which means when the alcohol level in your blood is high, so is the alcohol level in your milk. The alcohol level peaks about a half hour after ingestion and is gone after about 3 hours. Brent suggests planning ahead to either express milk before having a drink or else timing the celebration by feeding the baby, and drinking directly after that. Hopefully, by the time baby is hungry again in a few hours, the alcohol will have metabolized right on out of mom’s milk.

“A good guideline is that if you feel the affects of the alcohol, even slightly, you know the alcohol level in your blood and milk is too high.”

Why might a mother ever consider pumping and dumping? If your breasts are feeling full, pumping and dumping can relieve engorgement, but the milk must be discarded. Brent says, “If you feel full but do not express and dump that milk, the alcohol will metabolize out of it. Remember, pumping does not flush the alcohol out of your milk any quicker.”

What breastfeeding myths would you like to dispel? Leave us a comment to share some of the false things you’ve heard about nursing.

Here are more post by the Breastfeeding Cafe Carnival participants! Check back because more will be added throughout the day.

2 comments to Breastfeeding Myths: Pump and Dump

  • […] Katy Rank Lev @ Mommy News and Views-Breastfeeding Myths: Pump and Dump […]

  • I agree! the pump and dump thing is very out dated. And I can’t drink much at all these days! I’m really sensitive to alcohol, even just a couple sips makes my head feel heavy and my belly warm. I actually don’t drink because even the smallest amount seams to give me a headache…..I’ve wondered if it has to do with hydration since I’ve been struggling with that anyway.

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