Boozing and Breastfeeding

Row of vintage wine bottles in a wine cellar (shallow DOF; color

There is a lot of conflicting information out there about drinking and breastfeeding, so much so that many nursing parents become overwhelmed and avoid alcohol completely or find themselves pumping and dumping. Neither of these courses of action are necessary if you and your baby are healthy and you are not experiencing discomfort or engorgement.

 

Here’s what you should know: the level of alcohol in your breastmilk is the same as the level of alcohol present in your blood. Less than 2% of the alcohol you drink will reach your blood and milk.  A useful way to think about it is if you are sober enough to drive, you are sober enough to nurse your baby.

 

There are always factors to consider, such as your weight, your liver health, if you will be eating while drinking, how much you will be drinking, and your baby’s age. A newborn baby has a much more immature liver than an older baby. Up until three months of age, most babies metabolise alcohol at roughly half the rate of adults.

 

So if pumping and dumping is unnecessary, what do you do? Alcohol levels will peak on average in the blood stream between a half hour and an hour after consumption. The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests waiting about two hours after drinking to nurse your baby. Nursing the baby before you have a drink may be helpful. And remember, pumping and dumping is only done if you are uncomfortable. Alcohol will not stay in your milk after it has cycled out of your bloodstream. It doesn’t become trapped.

 

If you will be away from your baby for a considerable amount of time, it is always suggested that you pump as often as the baby would be eating to keep up your supply and to avoid engorgement or infection. Plugged ducts and mastitis are no fun.

 

Having an occasional drink has not been shown to affect milk supply or general health of the baby. You don’t have to miss out on a shared indulgence. If you are concerned, having a stash of pumped or expressed milk on hand to use can be helpful. You already make plenty of sacrifices as a parent. No need to unnecessarily restrict yourself! Cheers.