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Reviewed And Updated in May, 2018
While doctors still can’t decide if it’s safe to drink while breastfeeding, many women do have an occasional drink without having a clear understanding how it can affect their babies.
Forewarned is forearmed.
It’s pretty clear that large amounts of alcohol can harm your baby. But when it comes to a glass of wine, is it OK to drink one? How much can you drink? How long should you wait before breastfeeding? Should you pump and dump after drinking? How much is too much?
I have the answers!
But first, let’s dive into scientific data.
Breastfeeding and Alcohol Facts
- There is NO such alcohol beverage that increases milk production (not even a beer!) It’s a myth.
- Alcohol doesn’t help your baby sleep more soundly. In fact, you may get the reverse effect, when you baby wakes up every 1,5-2 hours.
- Most research says that the occasional intake of alcohol (1 drink = 150 ml of good quality red wine) is not harmful for the baby
- A nursing mother can breastfeed after having a drink as soon as she feels sober and neurologically normal. In other words, if you are sober enough to drive, you’re good to breastfeed.
- The American Academy of Pediatrics Section on Breastfeeding advises “ingestion of alcoholic beverages should be minimized and limited to an occasional intake but no more than 0.5 g alcohol per kg body weight, which for a 60 kg mother is approximately 2 oz liquor, 8 oz wine, or 2 beers. Nursing should take place 2 hours or longer after the alcohol intake to minimize its concentration in the ingested milk”
- There is no need to pump and dump after drinking. Pumping does not clear alcohol from your breast milk. The milk is produced from your blood, thus until your body fully metabolizes the alcohol, it will inevitably pass into your breast milk.
Effects of Alcohol on Breastfed Baby
- Alcohol negatively affects baby’s nervous system. If a mother, still feeling buzzed, breastfeeds the baby, he will fall asleep quickly, but his sleep will be troubled. He will wake up frequently. If a breastfeeding mother consumes alcoholic beverages quite often, the baby is at a high risk of developing mental retardation
- Alcohol may undermine the healthy functioning of baby’s cardio-vascular system. The baby can experience the following side effects: heart rate acceleration, fatigue, a drop of blood pressure
- The baby may experience severe colics after consuming breastmilk with a certain amount of alcohol in it. Ethyl alcohol leads to inflammation of the membranes of the esophagus, stomach and intestines. The intestine digestion function is impaired, thus vitamins and minerals are poorly absorbed. With frequent use of alcohol by the breastfeeding mother, the baby is under the risk for slow weight gain and physical development.
- Frequent use of alcohol in breastfeeding mothers may cause the baby to gradually develop an addiction.
Drink Smart. Tips for nursing moms who want to have an occasional drink while breastfeeding
1. TRADE QUANTITY FOR QUALITY
Experts say there aren’t enough studies to show the full picture on the matter. Yet it is highly recommended to stay clear of any kind of alcohol before your baby gets to the first developmental threshold of 3 months, since the brain of newborns under 3 months of age is still very vulnerable and developing.
If you baby’s older, you can afford yourself a glass of good-quality red wine (about 100-150 ml). But this is not to say that you can drink on a regular basis. One glass of wine once-twice a month is maximum what I personally think is acceptable.
2. CHOOSE THE RIGHT TIME
Dr. Herway says:
If a mom is going to drink alcohol, she should wait at least three to four hours until breastfeeding the baby
Four hours, as Dr. Herway says, may be a little too much. I’d personally wait at least two hours after drinking alcohol.
Some women think that pumping would help them to get rid of alcohol in their milk. Not quite. Alcohol is constantly circulating in blood-stream until it’s fully cleared from your system, thus it would regularly get into breast milk, so pumping is as useless as an udder on a bull. Better drink water after having some wine to speed up the clearance period. Stick to the following formula: 1 glass of wine + 1 glass of water. And you’ll be fine. 😉
It’s always better to plan ahead. So if you are to drink alcohol and will have to breastfeed soon after, there are two things you can do:
- You can pump and store some breast milk beforehand.
- Уou can feed your baby with formula.
If you decide to bottle-feed, don’t forget to “pump and dump” to prevent some breast pain that can be a result of a skipped feeding.
If you are still not sure whether you can drink alcohol when breastfeeding or not, here’s 13 facts you need to know about drinking alcohol and breastfeeding that will help you make the right call.
YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE THIS: 12 ESSENTIAL BREASTFEEDING TIPS & TECHNIQUES (A must-read for new moms!)
WHAT EVERY MOM SHOULD KNOW
Under no circumstances should you drink alcoholic beverages until your baby reaches the three months threshold (at least)
The younger the baby is, the less his organism is adapted to metabolizing alcohol. Newborns don’t have this ability whatsoever. The baby’s liver is not capable of processing even a small amount of alcohol, which means that all the harmful substances in the alcoholic beverage will poison the internal organs of the baby.
Of course, it’s not so much the alcohol itself that negatively affects the baby’s body, than the quality and quantity of the consumed alcohol beverage by the nursing mother. The more alcohol is consumed – the more time it takes for the body to metabolize it, thus more quantities of alcohol may penetrate into mother’s breast milk and end up in the baby’s body (if you breastfeed right after drinking or when you still feel buzzed).
Alcohol may negatively affect the process of milk production
It means that if you ever struggled from low milk supply, it would be wise to stay out of drinking alcohol during the whole period of breastfeeding because even the occasional consumption of alcohol may dramatically decrease milk production.
WHAT I PERSONALLY FIND NORMAL
Okay, I have to confess. There were times when I had a glass of wine almost every week (or even twice a week). It all started from our trip to France where refusing from drinking wine was almost illegal. Kidding, of course, but it really felt like it! 🙂 My baby was 9 months that time. Then we got back home. I started working a little. I was sleep deprived. I still had to run the household chores and be a good mother to my son. I would describe this period as highly stressful. At some point I became frustrated because it seemed I wasn’t succeeding in any sphere of my life. So having a drink over dinner was my meditation.
As my son was breastfeeding 24/7 on demand and waking up every 2 hours asking for a boobie to sooth himself back to sleep, I quickly realized I must set some boundaries in terms of drinking alcohol while breastfeeding if I don’t want to harm my baby. So I put myself together and admitted I was fighting stress with alcohol, which is wacky and sounds like an addiction. I then came up with some rules that helped me have an occasional drink without having second thoughts or feeling guilty about it.
So my advice to you (if you’re a crazy wine lover like I am) is to come up with some rules you’re going to follow.
Here’s what works for me
- Have a glass of wine while still nursing. This way you’ll have a couple of hours before the next feeding session and the alcohol should be out of your system by then. No need to pump and dump!
- Drink at the mealtime (with food). Food helps to slow the absorption of alcohol. (It won’t go “straight to your head”.)
- Have a glass of water after your drink. Just makes it easier and faster for your body to get rid of the alcohol.
- Beware of the washing out period. You can’t breastfeed if you still feel buzzed. So it’s good to know how much time it takes for your body to metabolize alcohol. Usually, one glass of wine (150ml) takes two hours to wash off. Double the time if you had two glasses.
- Set the limits. Trade quantity for quality. Less is always better when it comes to drinking while breastfeeding, especially if you are not sure of the effects alcohol may have on your baby.
WHAT ABOUT YOU?
Did you drink alcohol while breastfeeding? Are you absolutely against consuming alcohol till the end of breastfeeding? Share your thoughts in comments below.
REFERENCES (Scientific Research on Breastfeeding and Drinking)
- Alcohol and breastfeeding
- Alcohol consumption by breastfeeding mothers: Frequency, correlates and infant outcomes
- Short-term effects of maternal alcohol consumption on lactational performance
- Alcohol, Breastfeeding, and Development at 18 Months
- Sleep disturbances after acute exposure to alcohol in mothers’ milk
- The human infant’s suckling responses to the flavor of alcohol in mother’s milk
- The transfer of alcohol to human milk: Effects on flavor and the infant’s behavior
- Effect of different doses of ethanol on the milk-ejecting reflex in lactating women.
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