Alcohol and breastfeeding

Posted by Lovebly Team on

Alcohol and breastfeeding don't mix well. When you drink alcohol during breastfeeding, it passes into your breast milk at similar amounts to those found in your bloodstream. Although the baby would consume only a fraction of the alcohol the mother has consumed, no level of alcohol in breast milk can be considered safe for a baby to drink. Newborns have an immature liver, and they can't process the alcohol as well as adults can. So, it is probably wise to abstain – at least in the very beginning.

Most experts recommend breastfeeding moms should avoid drinking alcohol until their baby is at least 3 months old.Research shows that alcohol can affect babies' eating and sleeping patterns. While they may fall asleep more quickly, their sleep is usually reduced to shorter periods of time. Furthermore, daily consumption of alcohol (more than one drink a day) negatively affects infant motor development.

How to drink safely when breastfeeding?

If you choose to have a drink, plan carefully ahead in order to avoid exposing your baby to alcohol. Breastfeeding mothers can occasionally drink small amounts of alcohol (1-2 drinks), but timing is crucial. Your blood alcohol level (and the level of alcohol in your milk) tends to peak 30 to 90 minutes after consumption, although that time varies from person to person. This is why it is best to wait at least two hours before you nurse after drinking, so you can give your body a chance to clear the alcohol. You can take your drink right after a feeding rather than before, or during the evening if your baby sleeps longer hours then. 

Another option is to pump and store your milk before drinking alcohol so you can feed your baby expressed milk from a bottle. Alternatively, you can feed your baby formula in the hours following your alcohol consumption.

Eating before or while you have your drink helps lower the amount of alcohol in your blood and your milk. To avoid dehydration, take a glass of water in addition to the alcoholic drink.

Keep in mind that only time will reduce the amount of alcohol in your breast milk. Pumping will not affect it in any way. Alcohol is not stored in the milk in your breasts, just as it doesn’t remain in your blood. Once the alcohol in your blood drops, it will be out of your breast milk too.

How many drinks can you have when breastfeeding?

If you are a breastfeeding mom, limit your alcohol consumption to an occasional alcoholic drink and no more than one a day. The more you drink, the longer it will take for the alcohol to get out of your system.
Also, if you get drunk, you can't safely care for your baby. Alcohol impairs your judgment and reaction time, both of which are important when taking care of an infant. Intoxication could interfere with your awareness of your baby's needs. So if you do drink, make sure a sober adult is in charge of childcare.

Does drinking beer increase milk production?

Despite the popular belief that drinking beer increases milk production, there is no scientific evidence to support that. In fact, studies show that while prolactin (a hormone that boosts milk production) increases with alcohol consumption, oxytocin (a hormone that is responsible for milk let-down) drops. The result is a temporary decrease in milk production. This could explain why babies have a harder time breastfeeding when their mothers drink alcohol. For sure, alcohol dehydrates your body, which can have a negative impact on how much milk you make.

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