In the realm of breastfeeding, some mothers believe in the practice of diluting their breast milk with previously pumped milk after having a drink. However, it’s essential to understand why pumped milk does not need to be diluted after consumption, debunking the concept of ‘pump and dilute’ as unnecessary.
The capacity to produce liquid gold (breast milk) is among the most admired of the numerous superhuman abilities new parents appear to acquire after giving a child. Even if it is potentially tainted with alcohol, it is inconceivable to dispose of this valuable resource by dumping it down the drain. Hence, some individuals dilute pumped milk after consuming alcohol.
But the truth is that if you consume alcohol in moderation, you do not need to discard or dilute breast milk. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the consumption of one standard alcoholic drink per day by a lactating mother or father is not known to be harmful to a nursing infant (12 ounces of 5% beer; 8 ounces of 7% malt liquor; 5 ounces of 12% wine; or 1.5 ounces of 40% liquor).
Instead of discarding or diluting pumped breast milk, the CDC recommends that nursing mothers wait at least two hours after consuming a single beverage before nursing again. The CDC does not advise parents who consume alcohol to discontinue breastfeeding. Discover why you do not need to dilute your breast milk after consuming alcohol and what you should do instead.
When Is It Safe to Resume Breastfeeding After Consuming Alcohol?
Alcohol will ultimately leave your breast milk, just as it will eventually leave your circulation. Hence, if you have waited two hours after one drink, your breast milk should be alcohol-free, and you can resume nursing. Also, it is essential to listen to your emotions. If you are inebriated, you will need to wait longer. If you feel completely normal, it should be safe to breastfeed.
“In general, if you are sufficiently sober to drive, you are sufficiently sober to breastfeed,” says Leigh Anne O’Connor, IBCLC, a lactation consultant based in New York. Time and food intake are not the only elements to consider when determining whether your breast milk is safe for your baby. O’Connor also suggests examining factors such as your baby’s age, your metabolism, and the amount of alcohol you’ve consumed.
What ‘Pump and Dilute’ Means
According to the CDC, if you express or pump milk within two hours of ingesting a single alcoholic beverage, the expressed milk should be discarded. When seeking alternatives, parents seek guidance from friends and social media. Enter “pumping and diluting,” an alternative to “pumping and dumping,” in which breast milk pumped after drinking is diluted with previously pumped, alcohol-free breast milk instead of being dumped down the drain.
Emily Bernard, IBCLC, a lactation consultant and founder of Before and After Baby, speculates that this technique may have originated in internet forums.
“The concept of mixing pumped ‘clean’ breast milk with pumped breast milk that contains any substance, including alcohol, has gained traction in a number of online parents’ forums,” she says. “Sadly, it is not supported by any scientific evidence. In addition, many mothers believe that pumping reduces the quantity of alcohol in their breast milk when, in actuality, it is time that has this effect.”
The CDC reports that milk contains the maximum quantities of alcohol between 30 minutes and 1 hour after alcohol use; however eating can delay the peak levels.
Is Diluting and Pumping Safe?
The nurse coordinator for lactation services at NYU Langone, Gladys Vallespir Ellett, RN, IBCLC, advocates avoiding diluting breast milk completely. “Because there are no recommendations addressing the dilution of breast milk with pumped breast milk, I would not suggest this procedure,” she explains.
“Rather than placing limitations and discouraging women who are breastfeeding, I feel it is crucial for a woman to understand the suggestions so that she may make safe decisions and satisfy her desire to enjoy an occasional alcoholic beverage,” she adds.
This may be easier said than done, as organization-specific suggestions vary. The CDC and the American Academy of Pediatrics have different recommendations for how much a breastfeeding mother should safely consume (AAP). And online forums are chaotic enough to make anyone’s head spin. Yet, according to Ellett, breastfeeding a newborn immediately after consuming one to two beverages can impair the infant’s ability to transfer milk, increase agitation, and create sleep difficulties.
“The hazard of diluting breast milk is that there is no way to evaluate how much alcohol is in the milk compared to what it is being mixed with,” Bernard explains.
“The objective is to avoid intoxication,” O’Connor says. “There are risks associated with caring for a baby while drunk that go beyond the presence of alcohol in breast milk, which is metabolized out of milk as it is in blood. Generally, a breastfeeding mother or father can enjoy an occasional drink without pumping and dumping.”
If you do not feel comfortable breastfeeding your baby after drinking, it is preferable to feed them previously pumped breast milk or formula or to have someone else do it for you. You should use only “pump and dump” if you are suffering pain.
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