alcohol and breastfeeding

Breast Milk and Alcohol – What Every Breastfeeding Mom Needs to Know

For breastfeeding moms parades, celebrations, and get togethers raise the question about the safety of alcohol and breast milk. As a lactation counselor I’ve seen a great deal of misinformation circulating regarding drinking and nursing. I admit that my recommendations regarding breast milk may be seen as “unnecessarily conservative” by some, but can you ever be too careful when feeding your baby?

Breast Milk, Alcohol, and What You Need to Know

“Drinking beer will increase my milk supply.” – There is so much no in this statement. First of all, alcohol can dehydrate you (remember those wicked hangovers?). Secondly, it is the brewer’s yeast, not the alcohol, that can help increase milk production (it’s a galactagogue). If you’re trying to increase your milk supply, buy brewer’s yeast and add 2T to a batch of cookies, or put it in a smoothie. I buy my brewer’s yeast on Amazon.

“So little alcohol passes into my breast milk when I drink, so it’s fine if I have a few drinks and then nurse.” – While it is true that alcohol enters (and leaves) breast milk at the same rate as in your blood, your body metabolizes alcohol much differently than your baby’s. If you’ve consumed four glasses of wine and nurse your baby, your milk has an alcohol content of 0.0038 (which is about equivalent to a shot glass full of beer).  For you, that’s not a lot of alcohol. But would you be ok with your baby drinking that?

Pump & Dump – Pumping and Dumping does not speed the rate of elimination of alcohol from your breast milk. If you will be unable to nurse, pumping can take the place of a missed feeding. This will help you maintain your supply. You may, however, be uncomfortable and become engorged if you miss a feeding.  Pumping will relieve the discomfort and possibly prevent a potential clogged duct. This milk will still contain some alcohol. You you can reserve it for a non-feeding use (such as a bath or to help with diaper rash or skin irritations).

“If I’m sober enough to drive, I can breastfeed.” – This statement refers to safely handling your baby after drinking. If you’re sober enough to drive, you have the coordination and cognition to safely handle your baby. Best evidence from the Mayo Clinic shows “there is no level of alcohol in breast milk that’s considered safe for baby to drink.” If you would like to read more on their stance, here is their post from March 2016 on alcohol and breast milk.

What’s a breastfeeding mom to do?

  • How can you still enjoy the warm weather festivities without feeling left out? Bring a few bottles of expressed milk when you’re going out and want to drink so you don’t have to worry about nursing. You can even ask a friend or family member if they want to feed your baby (for some reason everyone loves feeding babies!).
  • If your baby goes more than two hours between feedings, you can have a drink after you nurse. Your body metabolizes one drink in roughly two hours. Stay hydrated between alcoholic drinks with water or electrolyte drinks.

Additional Reading

Survive the Holidays

Early Breastfeeding – 10 Tips for Success

Breastfeeding Basics – What You Need to Breastfeed Successfully

Breastfeeding and Alcohol: Is It OK to Drink? (Mayo Clinic)