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Breastfeeding/Prevent Breastmilk from Drying Up


QUESTION: Thank you for helping me!  I breastfeed my toddler (3 years and 9 months old) twice a day.  In a couple of weeks, I have to be away from him for 2.5 days.  We are not yet ready to stop breastfeeding, so I need to find a way to do this trip and not allow it to put an end to our breastfeeding.  (It is a long story, but there is no way I can cancel or reschedule this trip.)  I am not concerned that he will want to give up breastfeeding due to this hiatus (and if he does decide this for himself, that is fine.)  He will be emotionally well-supported by my wonderful husband, mother, and his sister.  My one and only concern, and it is very substantial, is that my milk could dry up.  I think it is probably not likely, given how long I have been continuously breastfeeding, but I want to feel as confident as I can and do all I can to increase the likelihood that this trip will not put a premature end to breastfeeding.  From my own research (and experience with my first child), I understand that keeping the demand going will maintain the supply.  For most of the 2.5 days, I will have no access to electricity or modern conveniences, so I believe that a hand-pump or expressing milk by hand are my only options.  Given your expertise, do you have any other advice or ideas to offer me, and anyone else in a similar situation?  Thank you so much for your time.  This issue is causing my quite a bit of anxiety, so I appreciate your help very much.

ANSWER: Dear Veronica,

First, congratulations for giving your son the best start in life by breastfeeding him!

Second, I think you have covered your possible options --a hand pump or hand-expressing. I would just make one suggestion -- whichever method you choose, it would be a good idea to practice ahead of time before you go on your trip. And again, whatever you do, you should pump or express at the same times you would ordinarily be nursing your son.

Best of luck, Sally
Sally Wendkos Olds
Author, THE COMPLETE BOOK OF BREASTFEEDING: Olds & Marks, 4th edition, September 2010, published by Workman Publishing, and available in most public libraries, bookstores & La Leche League chapters. Also available as an e-book.

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QUESTION: Thank you so much for your response.  I am hoping you won't mind a follow-up question.  If I use a manual pump (medela) and definitely will not be saving any of the milk that I pump, I assume I don't have to worry about washing or sanitizing the pump, is that correct?  We will be outdoors the entire time with no access to proper cleaning supplies (except sanitizing wipes).  Since the milk will be discarded, I am not concerned about contaminating it, but can my breasts be contaminated by the failure to clean the pump properly, such that my son will be at some risk when I return home and breastfeed him?  This might be a silly question, but I want to be sure I am doing the right thing by him.
Thank you again for your time.

ANSWER: Dear Veronica,

No, this is not a silly question at all. And I'm sorry to have to tell you that if you do not sanitize your pump carefully after using it each time, yes, bacteria can grow in the pump -- and then make their way to your breasts so that you may suffer some ill effects. This could not only put your son at risk if bacteria remain on your body -- it could cause problems for you.

I would suggest that you contact an outdoors company like Eastern Mountain Sports, REI, or L.L. Bean (they all have good websites) to see whether they have any products that can thoroughly and safely clean equipment like your pump.

If not, you will be running a health risk for both you and your son, and as much as you don't want to stop nursing, this may be the best plan for you at this time. I don't tell anyone when they should stop -- my own grandchildren were nursed for a very long time -- but at your son's age he no longer needs to nurse for nutrition and would probably accept giving up being breastfed fairly easily.

Good luck!


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QUESTION: Thank you again for your help.  Am I correct that, if I use hand-expression instead of a pump, this health risk is no longer an issue?  I would ensure that my hands are clean each time I express (either by using a sanitizing wipe or hand sanitizer).
I truly appreciate your help.

Dear Veronica,

Yes, I think you would probably be safe using hand-expression -- and cleaning both your hands and your breasts VERY thoroughly with hand sanitizer and/or a sanitizing wipe. Be sure you have enough on hand (no pun intended!) to last you through your time away. And you should put on a clean bra after each expression.

Good luck!



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Sally Wendkos Olds


What do you want to know about breastfeeding? I can tell you what`s good for the baby, what`s good for the mother -- and the father, how it`s related to a woman`s sexuality, how working moms can nurse, how to overcome obstacles, and lots more. As the author of THE COMPLETE BOOK OF BREASTFEEDING and author or coauthor of 8 other books and more than 200 articles about child and adult development, I can offer sound, sensible advice on breastfeeding, child care and family issues.


I nursed my 3 daughters and am the grandmother of 5 breastfed children. My book THE COMPLETE BOOK OF BREASTFEEDING (written in consultation with pediatrician Marvin S. Eiger, M.D.) was first published in 1972, and in 1999 came out in an updated 3rd Edition by Workman Publishing & Bantam Books. It is now a classic, with over 2 million copies in print. I am now revising this book for a fourth edition, consulting with pediatrician Laura M. Marks, M.D. This new edition will be published September 2009. I welcome any and all suggestions for the new edition. I coauthored college textbooks A CHILD'S WORLD: INFANCY THROUGH ADOLESCENCE, and HUMAN DEVELOPMENT; both are leading texts in their fields and have been read by 2 million students. I am the coauthor of HELPING YOUR CHILD FIND VALUES TO LIVE BY and RAISING A HYPERACTIVE CHILD, and author of THE WORKING PARENTS' SURVIVAL GUIDE & THE ETERNAL GARDEN: SEASONS OF OUR SEXUALITY. My newest book, A BALCONY IN NEPAL: GLIMPSES OF A HIMALAYAN VILLAGE, published in 2002, tells the story of the way of life in a remote village in Nepal, where all the women breastfeed! My book, SUPER GRANNY: COOL PROJECTS, ACTIVITIES, AND OTHER GREAT STUFF TO DO WITH YOUR GRANDKIDS, will be published March 2009. I speak often to professional, parent and general audiences and make many radio and TV appearances.

Credentials I received my B.A. in English Literature from the University of Pennsylvania, where I minored in Psychology, was elected to Phi Beta Kappa and graduated summa cum laude.

Other points of interest I have received national awards for my writing, and am a former president of the American Society of Journalists & Authors. I am listed in the World Who's Who of Women, International Authors & Writers Who's Who, and Contemporary Authors, and am a member of several professional and civic organizations. I believe: that all parents are working parents; that parents employed outside the home need special support; that mothers' well-being is crucial to their children's welfare; and that the family is the best institution in the world and the one for which we are least prepared. My thrills come when parents or kids tell me they were helped by my writing or speaking or just understanding. To find out more about me, go to

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