Alcohol and Breastfeeding: What You Need to Know

As a breastfeeding mother, you are responsible for providing your baby with the best possible nutrition and care. No pressure!! With the holiday season upon us, alcohol will likely be present at your next gathering.

alcohol and breastfeeding, wine glasses

Can a nursing mother drink alcohol?

While it is generally safe to drink alcohol in moderation after your baby is born, it is important to understand the potential risks and how to minimize them.

One of the main concerns with alcohol and breastfeeding is that it can reduce your milk supply. Alcohol can inhibit the release of the hormone prolactin, which is necessary for milk production. This can lead to a decrease in the amount of milk you are able to produce, and may cause your baby to feed less often or for shorter periods of time. However, research has shown that moderate drinking while breastfeeding rarely affects milk supply.

In addition to potentially reducing your milk supply, alcohol is passed through breast milk to your baby. When you drink alcohol, it enters your bloodstream and is then present in your milk. The amount of alcohol that your baby receives through your milk will depend on the amount you drink, how long it takes your body to metabolize the alcohol, and other factors.

Given the potential risks of alcohol consumption during breastfeeding, it is important to follow guidelines for safe drinking. Health Canada recommends that breastfeeding mothers avoid alcohol as much as possible, but if they do choose to drink, they should wait at least two hours after one drink before nursing their baby. This will give the alcohol time to be metabolized and cleared from your milk. La Leche League Canada has a great explanation of how quickly and how much alcohol passes through your milk.

mother breastfeeding in a nursing dress

Managing the challenges of breastfeeding while also enjoying social occasions or special events that involve alcohol can be difficult. Here are some tips to help you balance these competing priorities:

Plan ahead: If you know you will be consuming more then one drink, express milk in advance so that you have a supply on hand to feed your baby while you are drinking.

Limit your intake: Try to limit the amount of alcohol to one or two drinks in an evening, once or twice a week.

Choose non-alcoholic beverages and snacks to help you stay hydrated and avoid overindulging.

Ask for support and understanding from your partner, friends, and family members.

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