Can You Drink Alcohol While...

After a long pregnancy, you might be wondering when it is finally safe to have a drink or two! Many new moms look forward to enjoying a beer or glass of wine after giving birth, only to realize they do not know if it is safe to be drinking alcohol while breastfeeding.
So, can you drink while breastfeeding? Many experts say that it is safe for breastfeeding mothers to drink alcohol in moderation, but it is important to know what the safety precautions are when it comes to drinking and nursing.

Does alcohol cross into breast milk?

Alcohol does cross into breast milk and can be found in the highest levels about 30-60 minutes after having a drink. It can usually still be detected about 2-3 hours after drinking, although this number varies depending on the type of alcohol consumed and other factors such as metabolism and food consumption at the time of drinking.
One important thing to note is that the more drinks that are consumed, the longer the alcohol will be present in breast milk. For instance, if one drink can be detected 3 hours later, two drinks might still be detected 5 hours later, and so on. As long as alcohol can be detected in your blood, it will be found in your milk.

Can babies metabolize the alcohol in breast milk?

Babies are not able to metabolize alcohol well, especially young babies. If possible, try to continue to avoid any alcohol consumption in the first eight weeks postpartum. As babies get older and nurse less, you will be more easily able to plan around their feeding times in order to enjoy a drink without exposing them to alcohol.

Impacts on milk supply.

Studies have indicated that drinking alcohol while breastfeeding can not only lower milk supply for some women, but also inhibit the milk ejection reflex – otherwise known as the “letdown.” Because barley consumption can increase prolactin production, some women believe that drinking beer while breastfeeding is a better choice than other alcoholic beverages. However, there is no evidence to show that the barley found in beer evens out the negative effects of alcohol on milk production.

Side effects for baby.

Depending on the amount of alcohol consumed and how often the baby is breastfed following drinking, side effects can range from temporary and minor to long-term and severe.
Occasionally drinking wine while breastfeeding may cause a baby to have periods of wakefulness and fussing. A baby who is regularly exposed to breast milk after periods of binge drinking or intoxication may display severe symptoms up to and including delays in motor function and impairment of cognitive development.

Does it help to “pump and dump”?

Alcohol remains in breast milk as long as it remains in the bloodstream. Therefore, you cannot pump out the “contaminated” milk and be left with “clean” milk. If you are intoxicated, there will be alcohol present in your milk. Once you are fully sober, it will no longer be present. If you need to pump for comfort while drinking, pump enough to remain comfortable and dispose of that milk. However, pumping and dumping your milk will not make the alcohol leave your bloodstream OR your milk supply any faster.

How much is too much?

Because the rate that alcohol is metabolized varies from person to person and situation to situation, there is no standard answer to how much is too much to drink while breastfeeding. It is generally understood that if you shouldn’t be driving, you shouldn’t be nursing.
Breastfeeding parents are encouraged to limit their drinking to one standard drink (12 oz beer, 5oz wine, or 1.5oz of spirits), make sure to feed their baby immediately before beginning to drink, and wait until they are completely sober (2-3 hours after consuming one beverage) before breastfeeding again.

Does the type of alcohol make a difference?

All forms of alcoholic beverages will result in blood alcohol levels being raised. The concentration of alcohol in different types of drinks will make a difference in how quickly they are consumed. This can lead to alcohol levels rising and falling at different rates. Being aware of how much you are drinking and how strong the beverages are is important when if you choose to drink alcohol while breastfeeding.

Planning ahead if you are going out.

There are lots of ways to safely enjoy the occasional drink while breastfeeding! Feeding your baby or pumping immediately before going out or starting a drink is a great way to enjoy an occasional drink. Make sure to have previously expressed milk or formula available during the hours immediately after drinking if you expect that they will need to be fed during that time.
For the most part, breastfeeding parents should try to stick to one or two drinks at a time, after their baby is at least 8 weeks old. Be aware that the more beverages you consume, the longer alcohol will be present in your bloodstream and breast milk. Remember, pumping and dumping will not remove alcohol from your bloodstream or milk any faster. Plan ahead and have a backup feeding plan for your baby if you plan to drink in order to keep them safe and well-fed!