You’ve abstained from alcohol and sushi and lunch meat and who knows how many other creature comforts during your pregnancy, but now your sweet baby is here and you’re ready to get back to living. You probably need a girl’s night out bad! I totally get it! You’re not alone in this. Nearly every mother wonders about alcohol and breastfeeding. I’ve even heard of moms choosing not to breastfeed because they believe even an occasional alcoholic drink is forbidden. (Yikes!) There is a ton of misinformation around this topic, but I’m going to dispel the myths and give you the facts. I’m definitely not going to keep you from enjoying your glass of wine, or a craft brew (or two!), or even an Old Fashioned (if that’s what you fancy)! Go put on your cute top and get ready to enjoy yourself tonight with the facts I’m going to give you about alcohol and breastfeeding. 

Can I have a drink if I’m breastfeeding?

The simple answer is YES. Here are the specifics:

Does alcohol pass into the breastmilk?

Yes. (And you should know that some babies don’t like the taste.)

Does alcohol sedate the baby?

It can. Timing is the key here. Alcohol is water-soluble. As the mother’s alcohol levels change, so does the level in the breastmilk. In other words, once you feel the effects have worn off, it’s likely out of your system. The general recommendation is to wait about 2 hours after a drink before returning to breastfeeding.

Do I need to pump and dump if I drink?

No. Because alcohol is water soluble and is not trapped in the breastmilk, the level in the breastmilk changes as the mother’s blood levels change. Once the mother’s blood alcohol levels return to normal, so does the level in the breastmilk. The breast is not a filtering organ. Pumping the milk out will not get the alcohol out of your body or breastmilk. It just takes time and your  body’s metabolism of the alcohol to return the breastmilk alcohol levels to zero. The general recommendation is to wait about 2 hours after a drink before returning to breastfeeding.

An exception>>You may need to pump and dump if you are separated from the baby for several feedings and/ or continue to drink over several hours. You will only be pumping to remove the milk and maintain your supply (and so you don’t get engorged!), and dumping because if you’re still drinking, your breastmilk alcohol level is still high.

What if baby wants to breastfeed before 2 hours have passed?

If you’ve only had one drink and are able to breastfeed your baby safely (in a safe location where you will not fall asleep and/ or drop the baby), the small amount of alcohol should only make your healthy full-term baby sleepy. I’m sure you’ve heard your grandma say that she used to give her babies a little whisky when they were teething. Ha! ( **Not recommended for early or sick babies.)

Attempting to care for a baby while intoxicated can be very dangerous. Make sure if you plan to drink more than one drink and baby is with you, that someone who is not drinking is available to care for the baby.

How much can I drink?

Most health authorities recommend limiting alcohol to the equivalent of 8 oz of wine or 2 beers. According to the Institute of Medicine, you should limit to about 0.5g of alcohol per kg of maternal body weight per day. This translates to about 2-2.5 oz of liquor, 8 oz of wine, or 2 cans of beer for a 132 lb mother.

You should know…

You may have heard your aunt tell you to drink a beer because it will increase your milk supply. Two important things to know:

  • This is no longer true. The brewers yeast in beer is no longer active because it is now pasteurized.
  • Alcohol can inhibit the milk ejection reflex (letdown), so even if you do drink a beer with unpasteurized yeast, you will have trouble getting that milk out, which can lead to a reduced supply in the long run. 

Read More:

The Truth About Milk Supply.

One more thing…

While the effects seen in infants are generally mild, the long-term effects of alcohol in breastmilk remain unknown. Your best bet is to keep your alcohol consumption to the recommended limits and only drink occasionally. Girl, trust me you’ll blink and your breastfeeding journey will be over and your baby will 20 years old! (omg, it goes so fast!) That drink will still be there when you’re done breastfeeding.

So, now what?

Do you want to have a glass of wine tonight? Well, knock yourself out (not really, though). You can safely have one glass of wine, or beer, or whatever. Wait about two hours, then you’ve got the green light to breastfeed your sweet pea. No need to pump and dump unless you’re partying hard. (Does a sip and paint girl’s night out count as partying hard? Ha!)

Have you had anyone give you interesting advice about alcohol and breastfeeding?

Let me know in the comments below!

If you want more info or my resources for this post, reach out to me in the comments. 

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