July 21 2010
Gimme a drink! Alcohol and Breastfeeding
Note from Editor: This is one of our most popular articles! We have updated all the links and the information is accurate. (December 2017)
Can you drink alcohol while breastfeeding?
You didn’t drink for 9 months and you are still aching for a glass of wine/martini/cold beer. When pregnant, you protected your baby because you knew that alcohol would have been running in his veins with possible health consequences. Now, you’re also doing everything you possibly can to protect your baby: you’re exclusively nursing, following directions from the World Health Organization and your paediatrician. But what do they say about drinking alcohol while breastfeeding? How different is it from drinking during the pregnancy? Will drinking while breastfeeding hurt the baby?
Drinking while pregnant vs Drinking while breastfeeding:
Not the same thing.
When a drink contains less than 0.5% alcohol, it is considered non-alcoholic and it can be legally sold to minors in the United States. If you drank one beer (341 ml, 5%) and breastfed immediately after, your baby is drinking breast milk that has a 0.03% alcohol content, which is considered a non-alcoholic beverage. His own level of alcohol in his blood will be around 0.0000001%. How can that possibly hurt him? It is very different from the 0.03% level that he would have in his blood if you had your drink while pregnant.
Will drinking while breastfeeding hurt the baby?
Quick answer: No. Live your life and have a drink if you feel like it, it will not hurt your baby. Drink responsibly!
Long answer: No, although getting impaired is dangerous, whether you have a baby or not. Your breast milk is still what is best for your baby, even if you had a drink. The alcohol level transferred to breast milk, already low, will get even lower with time (same as your blood). Time, and nothing else, will make the alcohol completely go away from your breast milk. The more you drink, the longer it takes for your body to eliminate the alcohol.
Remember that the taste of your milk changes according to what you eat and drink, and some babies may not like the taste of the alcohol.
The American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Breastfeeding suggests “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.” It lists possible side effects if consumed in large amounts, including: drowsiness, deep sleep, weakness, and abnormal weight gain in the infant, and the possibility of decreased milk-ejection reflex in the mother.
KellyMom states “in general, if you are sober enough to drive, you are sober enough to breastfeed. Less than 2% of the alcohol consumed by the mother reaches her blood and milk.” Daily heavy use of alcohol (more than 2 drinks daily) may affect infants negatively and appears to decrease the length of time that mothers breastfeed their infants. Nursing or pumping within 1 hour before ingesting alcohol may slightly reduce the subsequent amounts of alcohol in breastmilk.
Enjoy your life with your baby: have people over, go for dinners, and drink alcohol in moderation.
Disclaimer: Information presented in this blog entry is not meant as a substitute for professional judgment. You should consult your healthcare provider for breastfeeding advice related to your particular situation. Momzelle does not warrant or assume any liability or responsibility for the accuracy or completeness of the information in this post.