Alcohol Before and After Breastfeeding: Is it Okay to Drink?
If you’re breastfeeding, there are several items you cannot eat or drink. After all, everything you consume goes straight to the baby, so in some ways, being a breastfeeding mom is similar to being pregnant, at least in a few of the things you can and cannot do. If you’re an alcohol drinker, there are a few things that you need to know if you’re still breastfeeding your baby.
Can You Drink Alcohol When You’re Breastfeeding?
When you’re wondering, is it okay to drink alcohol and breastfeed, the answer is “yes,” it is, but you should only drink alcohol in very moderate amounts. If you have a glass of wine at dinner and you sip it slowly, your baby will not be very affected by it. If you drink a lot of alcohol in a short period of time, it can harm the baby.
Keep in mind that contrary to what some people believe, you do not have to pump your breast milk a few hours after you drink alcohol and throw it away. As long as you haven’t drunk a lot of alcohol, the levels of alcohol will go down in both your blood and the baby’s. If you wait at least three hours before breastfeeding again, the alcohol levels will be so low in the breast milk that the baby shouldn’t be affected.
In fact, within 30 to 90 minutes after you drink the alcohol, the levels will peak in your bloodstream. Because of this, you should wait a minimum of two hours (preferably longer) before you breastfeed your baby. Keep in mind that both the mother’s and the baby’s levels of alcohol will be about the same, and once the levels peak, they automatically start to come down at that point.
How Much Alcohol Is Acceptable?
The bottom line about alcohol while breastfeeding is that most doctors recommend that you not drink at all, but if you want to drink occasionally, one beer or one glass of wine is not likely to hurt you or the baby. There is now both an alcohol in breast milk chart and a calculator you can use to determine how long you should wait after drinking something alcoholic in nature. Both of these are easy to find online.
Both the chart and the “when can I breastfeed after drinking” calculator help a lot if you decide to drink occasionally while breastfeeding. Some common sense is also recommended, but remember that it is still better to avoid alcohol completely when you’re breastfeeding just like you did when you were pregnant.
Each Breastfeeding Mother is Different
Because each person is different and reacts different when they drink even a small amount of alcohol, keep in mind the following when you’re breastfeeding and considering taking a drink:
- Your weight can affect the results. Heavier people tend to metabolize alcohol much faster than people who weigh less and are smaller.
- The age of your baby also matters. When an infant is under three months of age, they can only metabolize alcohol at about half the rate as an adult can. This is due mostly to an immature liver.
- How you drink your alcohol also affects the results. If you are eating something as you’re drinking alcohol, the alcohol absorption rate is decreased.
- If you drink more alcohol than you should, it is going to take longer for the alcohol to be eliminated from your body.
- If you do drink and it’s almost bedtime, never share your bed with the baby because you can be more impaired than you realize.
- Contrary to what used to be reported, drinking alcoholic beverages does not increase milk production or cause the milk to be a healthier food.
It’s best if you do not drink at all while you’re breastfeeding, but if you do, pay attention to the following tips:
- Plan ahead and pump your milk so you can feed the baby that milk after you have your drink.
- If your breasts are engorged and the alcohol hasn’t had time to clear the bloodstream, you should pump to get rid of some of the swollenness. If it’s been less than two hours since you’ve drunk anything, you may want to discard the milk.
- To make things a little easier, you can stick to non-alcoholic beverages, many of which taste like the real thing but are alcohol-free.
If you consume more than six standard servings of alcohol in a 24-hour period, it can be detrimental to both your and the baby’s health. You may be unable to care for your baby at that point, and the child may become drowsy or have trouble suckling. Too much alcohol can also affect the let-down reflex and cause the baby to sleep too deep and for too long of a period.
Binge or heavy drinking is never okay whether you’re breastfeeding or not because it can put both you and the baby in a potentially dangerous situation.
Now that we know the answer to the question, is it safe to drink alcohol and breastfeed, it’s best to keep in mind that the fewer drinks you consume while you're nursing, the better. Drinking only one small alcoholic beverage per day -- or better yet, only occasionally -- is acceptable because the harm it does is minimal.
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