Drinking Alcohol and Breastfeeding

Everyone knows that drinking alcohol during pregnancy can be harmful to your baby’s health and development. However, many mothers are unsure if they can consume alcohol when breastfeeding. They will often receive conflicting reports on the matter. Here are a few things you must keep in mind while breastfeeding.

Can a Breastfeeding Mother Drink Alcohol?

There is no straightforward answer to this question. However, most medical experts do agree that taking up to one or two small drinks of alcohol during breastfeeding in the day should not have any effect on your baby. The alcohol will transfer to your breast milk and you must be aware that some of it will pass on to your infant.

Amount of Alcohol Which Passes into Breast Milk

After consuming an alcoholic drink, the levels of alcohol in your system peak in 30 minutes. If you are consuming food with the alcohol, then it takes about 60 to 90 minutes. However, only 2% of the total amount of alcohol transfers to your breast milk.

How Does Drinking Alcohol Affect Your Milk Supply and Baby?

While most studies seem to be inconclusive when it comes to breastfeeding and the side effects of drinking while breastfeeding, you will do well to keep the following in mind:

  • Alcohol will reduce the amount of milk produced. Some studies have shown that milk production drops by 23% with the consumption of one drink.
  • A study has shown that infants who’s mothers consume alcohol have a changed sleep cycle. They sleep for shorter periods of time though they may fall asleep quicker.
  • Your infant may gain weight slowly if you consume alcohol on a daily basis.
  • A decrease in gross motor skills might also be a side effect of drinking on a daily basis.

How Can You Safely Have an Occasional Drink?

Many different people have differing opinions on how much and how often you can drink alcohol when breastfeeding. As a rule of thumb however, you should restrict yourself to 2 or 3 drinks a week.

Is it Safe to Have More Than One Drink if You Are Breastfeeding?

The more alcohol you consume, the longer your system will take to process and clear the alcohol from your body. It is best to stick to only one drink a day. Apart from transfer of alcohol to your baby through your breast milk, you will also not be able to care for your baby if you are intoxicated. In this condition, you shouldn’t let your baby sleep in the same bed as you either.

How to Reduce the Effect Of Alcohol On Your Baby?

There are certain steps you can take to minimise the effect of alcohol on your baby’s health and development.

  • Drink very minimally for the first three months of your baby’s life as her liver’s functioning is still not well developed.
  • Make drinks that use low alcohol content.
  • Make sure that you eat before and during the intake of your drink.
  • After consuming an alcoholic drink, it is best that you avoid breastfeeding for two to three hours.
  • Store alcohol-free breast milk for any occasion where you know you will be drinking.

Does Drinking Beer Increase Milk Supply?

No. Studies have shown that drinking beer reduces the let-down reflex apart from reducing the overall supply of breast milk. Do not put much by this old wives’ tale and consult with your doctor if you are concerned about the quantity of breast milk you are producing.

Do You Need to Dump Or Pump After Consuming Alcohol?

While it is not necessary that you dump the milk you produce after you consume alcohol, a lot of the decision depends on the amount of alcohol consumed. You must also keep in mind how close you are to feeding your baby. You should consider pumping if your breasts feel too full and to ensure that the ducts remain unblocked. When going for long periods without breastfeeding, then it is best to pump. If consuming excessive amounts of alcohol during this time, then you must dump the milk produced.

What You Can Do If You Drink Too Much

Many mothers wonder: how long after drinking can I breastfeed again? Do not breastfeed your baby if you feel that you have consumed too much alcohol. Bottle feed your baby with stored breast milk to ensure that your baby is nourished while keeping your mind at ease regarding the health of your baby. For older children, you can skip an entire nursing session without any negative consequences.

Things To Consider

There are many things you must consider before you consume any alcohol while breastfeeding.

1. Baby’s age

For the first three months of your baby’s life, her liver will not yet be mature enough to handle alcohol. So, even minuscule amounts of alcohol can have an adverse effect on her liver.

2. Your weight

The lighter you are, the longer your body will take to process and remove all traces of alcohol from your body.

3. Amount of alcohol

The more alcohol you consume, the longer does it take for your body to process it. The longer the alcohol stays in your system, the higher chances of it getting into your breast milk.

4. Will you be eating

Ensuring that you eat just before and during consumption of alcohol will allow your body to process the alcohol better. In fact, lesser amounts of alcohol will be absorbed into your blood stream and milk supply.

Conclusion

While there is no consensus on the amount and frequency with which you can consume alcohol, it is best that you lay off the drink for the first few months of your baby’s life. When you do start drinking again, ensure that it is no more than 2 to 3 drinks a week as any more than that amount can cause adverse effects to your baby’s health and development. As always, consult with your doctor regarding any queries or concerns you might have with your breast milk production.