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Is drinking alcohol while breastfeeding safe?

While it is universally accepted that drinking while pregnant is a big no-no, the dos and don’ts of consuming alcohol while breastfeeding are less understood. Let’s start by saying that, even if you’re breastfeeding, you can probably drink alcohol now and then – though with many caveats, and certainly not to excess. Current research suggests, and most doctors conclude, that the occasional drink is not harmful to mother or baby. Unfortunately, the rumor that beer increases breast milk production is also false. That’s not to say that you’ve got the ok to return to your college days, because your baby is tiny and doesn’t have a fully functioning liver, but the occasional glass of wine while you’re winding down from the stress of your first postpartum poop or sleepless night is acceptable.

How does alcohol impact mom?

For a woman weighing 130 pounds, healthcare practitioners recommend limiting the consumption of alcohol to 8 or 9 ounces of malt liquor, 5 ounces of wine or a beer. Fortunately, less than 2% of the alcohol consumed by the mother actually reaches her blood and milk.

How does alcohol impact babies?

Infants under 3 months process alcohol at about half the rate of adults, so limiting alcohol consumption can keep your little one’s liver safe and well-developed. Alcohol can impact your baby’s eating and sleeping — after the mother consumes an alcoholic beverage, her baby gets about 20% less milk than usual. Babies can also get sleepy if mothers drink alcohol, but this sleep can be restless and shorter than normal.

How long should I wait before breastfeeding?

Make sure you wait at least 2 hours before nursing your baby so that your body has enough time to process and clear out the alcohol. Although every woman’s body is different, your blood alcohol level is generally highest 30 to 90 minutes after a drink. The best way to enjoy a relaxing glass of wine is by timing it so that you’ve either fed right before your drink, or having it during one of baby’s longer sleeps. To avoid breastfeeding while drinking altogether, before drinking, pump and store milk you can feed to your baby later, or formula feed in the hours after your drink. To bust another breastfeeding myth, pumping after drinking does not speed the elimination of alcohol from your bloodstream, so when you drink, sit back, relax, and enjoy a little you time.

  • Maija Bruun Haastrup, Anton Pottergard, Per Damkier. “Alcohol and Breastfeeding.” Basic & Clinical Pharmacology & Toxicology. 114(2): 168-173. Web. February 2014.
  • Elizabeth LaFleur. “Breast-feeding. Is it okay to drink alcohol?” Mayo Clinic. Mayo Clinic, March 11 2016. Web.
  • Julie Mennella. “Alcohol’s Effect on Lactation.” National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Web.
  • “Breastfeeding and everyday life.” WomensHealth.gov. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, July 21 2014. Web.
  • “Breastfeeding and the Use of Human Milk.” Pediatrics. 115(2). Web. February 2005.
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