Bottles & Boobs

Pump and Dump: Is it Necessary?


If you’re a breastfeeding mom, you’ve probably wondered at least once (and probably more than once!) if you can or need to “pump and dump”. While everyone hates to waste precious breast milk, there are definitely times where it isn’t possible or recommended to save or give your breast milk to your baby. 

Let’s take a look at what these scenarios are and separate fact from fiction on pumping and dumping.

What Does “Pump and Dump” Mean?

The phrase “pump and dump” actually means exactly what it sounds like. It’s best described as an action where a mother pumps out breast milk and throws it away instead of feeding it to her infant.1 

So why would you need to do this? Sometimes it’s because of logistical issues like not having anywhere to store the breast milk at a safe temperature, and other times this is because you’ve had alcohol to drink or taken a medication that you don’t want passed along to your baby.  

Pumping and Dumping Isn’t Always Necessary

While there are times that pumping and dumping is the safest thing to do for your baby, but it’s important to know that you don’t necessarily need to do this after having any sip of alcohol or every kind of medication.2

Like so many things in life, the answer is…when you need to pump and dump depends on a few factors, so let’s take a closer look.

These Are a Few Instances to Consider a Pump and Dump

Although all moms with they could give every hard-earned drop of breast milk to their baby, it may not always be the best idea. Here are some times that pumping and dumping may be your best bet.

During a Weekend Getaway Without the Baby

If you’re headed out of town without your baby and there’s no place to store the milk, then pumping and dumping might be a good idea. This will take away the feeling of discomfort, especially since your body won’t be used to the lack of demand for the milk.3

If you need to do this, it’s best to try and pump at the same times your baby would usually breastfeed so you can keep on a schedule and maintain your supply.3

After a Night Out Without Your Infant

Are you in need of a date night with your husband or group of friends? When you return home, you may want to pump to take away any feelings of engorgement. This feeling is especially more likely to happen if you haven’t needed to pump during the baby’s dinner time like normal.

During a Work Trip

If you’re on a business trip, then you’ll be definitely away from your infant for a longer period of time. There also might not be enough time in between all of the meetings and conferences. You’ll need to keep your milk levels up for when you return though. When you do this, make sure to pump and dump.

Otherwise, your body might think to take a hint and lower the milk supply.

If You Don’t Have a Clean Space to Pump

If you need to pump but you’re in an unsanitary environment, then it might be best to dump the milk rather than saving it for your baby. The milk has the potential to become contaminated and unsafe. This is especially true if your baby is a newborn or a preemie.

During a Thyroid Scan

When there is a radioactive scan going on in the body (not all scans are radioactive), radioactivity and radioactive iodine is present in the system. Always partner with a medical professional to see when this radioactivity has left your system fully. 

In the meantime, you can always pump and dump to relieve any feelings of engorgement. This will also allow you to keep the same milk levels after the radioactivity has left your body.  

While on Certain Medications

Some medications are not compatible with breastfeeding or may have some risk so it is very important to discuss the risks and benefits of any medication with your healthcare professional. The same is true for over the counter medications and supplements. However, there are also several medications you can take that will still allow you to nurse your child, such as short term over the counter pain relievers like Tylenol or Motrin.  

If you happen to need to take medication for a long period of time and it’s unsafe for your baby to breastfeed, then you may have to wean off of breastfeeding completely, or refrain from starting breastfeeding at all. Not to worry–while not common, this scenario is also not uncommon, and formula feeding your baby is just as good as breastfeeding them. 

There May Be No Place to Store Milk

Are you on a long road trip where there is no room or place in the car to store milk? Perhaps you’re in a hotel where there is no fridge in your room? 

If there is no room or place to store your milk, then there is no real reason for you to keep it in your possession. It may only spoil and go to waste before your baby can drink all of it. 

Don’t worry or stress about finding a spot to store your newly pumped milk. It’s okay to simply pump and dump, so you don’t have to worry about your breasts becoming overly full or swollen.

However, if you need that extra milk, remember that breast milk is generally safe at room temperature for about 4 hours, or you can always bring a dedicated cooler for your milk storage needs. There’s nothing wrong with coming a little extra prepared! Just make sure you monitor the temperature of the cooler and bring extra cold packs if needed if you plan on storing that milk for more than a few hours. 

When Questionable Foods Have Been Ingested

While healthy eating and breastfeeding is always ideal, sometimes even baby-friendly foods aren’t particularly friendly to your specific little one. 

If you notice that your baby seems to be in distress or if there’s any sort of out of the ordinary reaction with your baby when you consume specific foods or drinks, you may want to cut it out entirely or at least limit your consumption until you can touch base with your pediatrician about identifying what may be causing the reaction in particular. If you do consume that product again in the meantime, you may want to pump and dump. 

Our Final Thoughts

Every woman and her needs while breastfeeding are different. The method of pumping and dumping is meant to create relief for you when your body might be creating too much milk, or if you won’t be in the presence of your infant for a period of time. There are several scenarios where this method can prove to be beneficial for you and your breast comfort. So, it’s 100% up to you to better determine when using this method matches your needs–every feeding journey is different!


1- Pumping and dumping myths | Northwestern Medicine

2- Breastfeeding: alcohol | Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

3- Pumping and storing breast milk | Office on Women’s Health

The content on this site is for informational purposes only and not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Discuss any health or feeding concerns with your infant's pediatrician. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay it based on the content on this page.

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