Breastfeeding and Alcohol: 4 Things to Know

There are a few things new moms should keep in mind when it comes to breastfeeding and alcohol

There are a few things new moms should keep in mind when it comes to breastfeeding and alcohol | Source: iStock

After nine, long — not to mention very pregnant — months of no drinking, there comes a day when the stars align. An evening out is planned, childcare comes through, and your pre-maternity clothes make it out of hiding. It’s your first post-baby soiree. As your getaway from your mom-role begins to take shape, you can almost taste the cocktail or that giant glass of wine. But before you launch into your baby-free mindset, your mom persona has some questions, “How many is too many? Will I have to pump and dump? After nine months of near sobriety, I deserve this, right?” It’s crucial to take a moment to plan because whatever you consume affects your breastfeeding baby.

Before you abandon your evening plans for yoga pants and Netflix, keep in mind that drinking while breastfeeding is complicated, but totally doable. Like most of your post-baby life, it just requires a little extra advance planning. These tips and tricks will keep your baby safe and healthy, while giving you the freedom to reclaim your pre-baby social life, cocktails and all.

1. Quantity is everything

group of four friends clinking alcoholic beverages

Friends clink their drinks | Source: iStock

It’s one thing to have a glass of wine and completely another to have an entire bottle. Excessive drinking is hopefully, an obvious no-no. When you have a breastfeeding baby who relies on you for their intake of food and nutrients, drinking too much does more than leave you with a nasty hangover, it directly impacts your newborn. Go ahead and enjoy a drink, but do so in moderation. Enjoying a single drink one or two times a week is typically thought of as acceptable for a nursing mother.

2. Your baby’s sleep and hunger can be disrupted

Studies show that the alcohol that transfers to the baby through breastmilk can affect a baby’s eating and sleeping patterns. Nursing babies consumed 20% less milk when they fed during the four hours following the mother’s consumption of moderate amounts of alcohol, such as four ounces of wine, one cocktail, or a can of beer. In addition, while the alcohol in your breastmilk will make your baby drowsy and help them fall asleep quickly,Baby Center notes that they will sleep for a shorter period of time.

3. Everything you drink passes to your baby

close-up image of a baby drinking out of a bottle

Baby drinking breastmilk from a bottle | Source: iStock

As you sip on your drink of choice, the same amount of alcohol that goes into your bloodstream making you tipsy also passes into your breast milk. Even though the amount of alcohol your baby intakes will be minimal, their body will take longer to break it down, and it can negatively impact their development. This is one time when it’s better to play it safe. According to the Mayo Clinic, there’s no level of alcohol in breastmilk that’s considered safe for a baby to drink.

4. Prepare to play the waiting game

When you drink, the alcohol levels in your breastmilk will be at their peak the 30 to 60 minutes after drinking or the 60 to 90 minutes after drinking with a full meal. For beer and wine it typically takes one to two hours for a unit of alcohol (a small glass of wine or a half a pint of beer) to completely leave the mother’s blood. Play it safe and have some pre-pumped breastmilk ready for situations when you need to wait for the alcohol to clear your system entirely.

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