Alcohol and Breastfeeding
Breastfeeding and alcohol
You may be shocked to learn that a drink of alcohol isn’t necessarily off the menu when you’re breastfeeding your baby!
There are, however, some essential facts that you need to know to be able to do this safely.
First of all, it’s important to know that alcohol passes freely from your bloodstream into your breast milk, and it is usually about 2% of the alcohol that you take into your body.
This alcohol will peak in your milk, usually between 30 to 90 minutes after you have had a drink.
The alcohol will then be broken down by your body and will leave your milk, so it’s important to know that the amount of alcohol in your bloodstream is similar to the amount in your milk.
With this in mind, it’s a good idea if you’re going to drink alcohol, to feed your baby first, and then to have that drink.
Every unit of alcohol takes about two hours, sometimes up to three hours, to get out of your system entirely, so after this amount of time, it’s safe to bring your baby back to the breast again.
A fascinating study has shown that eating a meal and expressing your milk just before drinking alcohol can help to speed up your metabolism, and this can help to get rid of alcohol from your body faster, which is worth considering.
If you plan to attend a function without your baby, e.g., a wedding, and you intend to have a few drinks, it’s possible to pump your milk beforehand and leave the expressed milk with your baby’s caregiver.
In this particular scenario, contrary to popular belief, there is no need to pump your milk after the event and discard it.
Once you are not under the influence of alcohol anymore, it is safe to feed your baby at the breast.
The most important thing to remember is that if you and your baby are apart for any length of time, keep up your supply with a hand pump or small electric pump (if possible).
Use hand expression if you feel uncomfortably full at any point of the separation, to prevent a blocked duct. Blocked ducts can lead to mastitis, and it would be a shame to spoil a night out by getting mastitis.
Finally it’s important to remember that many experts recommend drinking no more than one to two drinks per week.
We also know from studies that drinking moderate amounts of alcohol can sometimes alter the sleep and wake patterns of babies, as well as impairing the letdown of milk.
Hence, it’s vital to stick to the recommended safety guidelines.
Review dates, references & further resources
Version 1.1 published in March 2019. Next review date: Jan 2022
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