Alcohol and Breastfeeding – What You NEED To Know

There is so much conflicting advice and tips around alcohol and breastfeeding.  Even as a dietitian and breastfeeding mom, I was unsure what to REALLY believe.  Then I dove into the research…

alcohol and breastfeeding

Interestingly, the recommendation from key health authorities vary slightly, but the overall message is the same.

Alcohol will pass into breastmilk and should be limited or avoided.

What You Need To Know:

  1. Alcohol will pass to mom’s breastmilk.  Breastmilk alcohol levels generally reflect mom’s blood alcohol levels (e.g. when mom’s blood alcohol concentration is 0.08%, alcohol in mom’s breastmilk will be 0.08% concentration). A point of confusion & debate is that while mom’s blood alcohol content reflects breastmilk concentration, the absolute amount of alcohol transferred to baby is small (e.g. 0.08% in breastmilk vs. a 12% glass of wine).
  2. Alcohol can change the taste of breastmilk, making it less desirable for some babies  In turn, baby may end up consuming less breastmilk.
  3. Infant exposure to alcohol above moderate levels through breastmilk could be damaging to the infant’s development, growth, and sleep patterns (see below for what’s considered “moderate” levels).
  4. There are concerns about long-term, repeated exposures of infants to alcohol via mom’s breastmilk, so moderation is advised.
  5. Chronic consumption of alcohol may reduce breastmilk production.

What If I Choose To Drink?

If you do choose to drink alcohol, here’s what you need to know…

  1. The Centers For Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) states “moderate alcohol consumption by a breastfeeding mother (up to 1 standard drink per day) is not known to be harmful to the infant, especially if the mother waits at least 2 hours before nursing (per drink).”
  2.  Consuming more than one drink per day is not recommended.
  3. Alcohol levels are usually highest in breast milk 30-60 minutes after an alcoholic beverage is consumed, and can be generally detected in breast milk for ~2-3 hours per drink after consumed.  This is why it’s recommended to wait at least 2 hours per drink before nursing.

If you choose to drink more than one standard drink (because you might not want to miss out on your best friends wedding festivities :)), here’s what you need to know…

  • Breast milk continues to contain alcohol as long as alcohol is still in the mom’s bloodstream.
  • Wait at least two hours PER DRINK to breastfeed.   Meaning if you have 4 drinks, the safest route is to wait at least 8 hours.  Refer to this chart by Motherisk to help you identify how long YOU should wait before resuming nursing or pumping.
  • You may choose to “pump and dump” breastmilk to ease any physical discomfort while adhering to the breastmilk expression schedule. In other words, “pump and dump” during the time period needed for alcohol to no longer be detectable in your breastmilk.  Pumping WILL NOT remove alcohol from breastmilk faster.  Alcohol in breastmilk reflects alcohol concentration in mom’s bloodstream.
  • Alcohol test strips have become popular. While they may provide another source of confidence that your breastmilk does not contain alcohol, I still recommend waiting the appropriate time for alcohol to clear your body.


What’s Considered A Standard Drink?

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015-2020 provides guidance around Alcoholic Drink-Equivalents. One alcoholic drink-equivalent is described as containing 14 g (0.6 fluid ounces) of pure alcohol.

alcohol and breastfeeding

Use this guide as a way to help calculate what constitutes a “standard drink” and how this impacts the amount of time you should wait before resuming breastfeeding.

Myths About Alcohol and Breastfeeding.

  • Beer increases milk supply.   FALSE –> Drinking beer does not increase your milk supply.
  • Pumping & dumping while drink helps eliminate the alcohol in breastmilk quicker.  FALSE –> Breastmilk continues to contain alcohol as long as alcohol is still in mom’s bloodstream.

I hope this post helps you determine how to approach your decisions around alcohol and breastfeeding!




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