Breastfeeding and alcohol

Breastfeeding and alcohol - Transcript

You might be really surprised to learn that a drink of alcohol isn’t necessarily off the menu when you’re breastfeeding your baby, but there are some important facts that you need to know to be able to do this safely. So first of all it’s important to know that alcohol does pass freely from your bloodstream into your breast milk and it’s usually about 2 percent of the alcohol that you take into your body – and this alcohol will peak in your milk usually between 30 to 90 minutes after you’ve had that drink. The alcohol will then be broken down by your body and will then leave your milk – so just remember the amount of alcohol in your bloodstream is similar to the amount in your milk.

So 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, and know that every unit of alcohol takes about two hours, sometimes up to three hours, to get out of your system completely. So after this amount of time it’s safe to bring your baby back to the breast again.

And an interesting study has shown that eating a meal and expressing your milk just before drinking alcohol can help to speed up your metabolism, and then this can help to get rid of alcohol from your body faster – so it is something to consider.

So every now and again you may be in a situation where you’ve been invited to a wedding perhaps, where you’re not going to bring your baby, and you want to have a few drinks. So in that situation it would be important to pump your milk beforehand, leave the person who is looking after your baby, with that expressed milk- so your baby has all of that expressed milk while you’re away from him.

It might be tempting to think in this situation that you will have to pump your milk and then get rid of it, with a view to speeding up getting rid of that alcohol out of your body, but that isn’t actually necessary.

Remember that if you’re away from your baby it’s good to keep up your supply if you can with maybe a hand pump, or at the very least use hand expression if you feel uncomfortably full at any point, because that can always be the beginning of a blocked duct, and blocked ducts can lead to mastitis, and it would be a shame to spoil that event by ending up with 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 let down of milk – so it’s certainly good as a rule of thumb to stick to safety guidelines.

Review dates, references & further resources

Review Dates

V1 published June 2017. Next review date: April 2020

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