Can I drink alcohol and breastfeed?

As the holidays fill our homes and our lives, many new breastfeeding moms everywhere are probably asking – can I drink and breastfeed my baby?

Alcohol and breastfeeding have often been seen as oil and water – the two just do not mix. Women for years have been told to “pump and dump” any breastmilk after consuming alcohol. While frequent, overindulgence in alcohol can impact a baby (slowing motor development as she ages, interrupting sleep patterns, and decreasing milk intake and jeopardizing weight gain), the occasional drink is negligible.

What is safe? Lactating moms are recommended to consume no more than one serving, which could consist of one glass of wine (5 oz), one cocktail (1.5 oz) or two beers (12 oz). The blood alcohol levels peaks anywhere between 30 minutes and 90 minutes after consuming, depending on mom’s weight and amount of food consumed. Mom only has to wait a couple of hours after consuming alcohol and is then advised to breastfeed as normal.

Yes! Moms do not need to pump after every drink!

As soon as mom feels neurologically normal (not buzzed), than the alcohol has been metabolized and is no longer in her system OR her milk. Milk is a blood-based product, and therefore alcohol behaves the same as it does blood. It weaves in and out of her milk until it is completely filtered out of the woman’s system. It is not stored in her blood or her milk, but takes time to metabolize. Therefore, it is safe to latch baby after only a couple of hours.

So while it’s not advisable to latch baby after a drink regularly, it’s also only about 2% of mom’s blood alcohol level that enters her milk – which isn’t much if she is only drinking one glass of wine. It also has very little – if any – impact on babies over three months old, whose livers are mature and able to metabolize alcohol like an adult. Baby’s ingestion of breastmilk that has some alcohol in it and its impact on baby is not as clear cut and critical as many moms have been led to believe. Yet, taking precautions are always a good discretionary step for health and safety of both mom and baby. A good rule of thumb is waiting two hours per drink of alcohol.

So would a mom ever have occasion to pump her milk and discard it? Sure.

If mom is away from her baby and is having a good time out where the holiday cheer is flowing freely, she may decide to pump before she leaves home and only pump or hand express later in order to avoid the discomfort of engorgement and reduce her risk of mastitis – as well as protect her milk supply. She would then be advised to discard that milk due to her high blood alcohol level.

If mom has had quite a few drinks (3 or more servings), it’s advisable to pump and discard that milk and provide baby with milk pumped previously, waiting until the next morning to breastfeed – and of course, let another loved one feed baby that night so that baby is safe. Even buzzed is drunk and we are not always aware how impaired we are, so another member of the household is best to care for baby until mom is no longer under the influence.

While the occasional drink is absolutely fine, just be aware that it can impact milk supply if it is a sustained, regular habit. Alcohol can inhibit the effectiveness of mom’s oxytocin, which is what allows her body to let down milk to her baby. It also changes the taste and smell of her milk. Due to both of these characteristics, baby could be at risk for improper weight gain over time if mom is a frequent drinker.

The Pediatric Association recommends no more than 2-3 alcoholic beverages a week for lactating moms.

Alcohol is not recommended for pregnant moms, due to its devastating impacts on the developing fetus.

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One thought on “Can I drink alcohol and breastfeed?

  1. Pingback: Six holiday hangups that impact milk supply for breastfeeding moms | Lindsey Gemme

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