“Can you drink while breastfeeding?”
With the Holidays in full swing, we frequently get this question! So we asked our trusted lactation consultant, Megan Maltby from Lotus Lactation to give us the scoop on the most recent research! Here’s what she has to say!
*Friendly reminder this is general information- not medical advice and each person’s response to alcohol is different.*
“Can I drink alcohol as a breastfeeding parent?”
As it stands, moderate alcohol consumption (up to one drink per day) is considered admissible during breastfeeding and lactation. Breast milk is actually a modified blood so alcohol not only gets filtered out of the bloodstream but also out of the milk over time. Typically, the average person’s blood alcohol level peaks .5-1hr after consumption, which means nursing right before drinking may give your body the time it needs to filter out the alcohol before it is time for baby’s next feed, 2-3 hours later.
Studies have shown that breastfeeding immediately after having a drink (a glass of wine or a beer) doesn’t seem to negatively affect the baby. And, the amount of alcohol in the blood at that point ( .016-.018% ) is CONSIDERABLY less than the legal driving limit. Of course, this doesn’t take into account how much you’ve eaten, your individual body type, or metabolism so these variables should be taken into consideration as well.
Should I pump and dump?
This is another common question I hear often. As I mentioned, alcohol in milk gets filtered out over time so pumping and dumping is not necessary. This is because alcohol is not stored in milk, it simply enters and exits just as it does in blood. So even if you “pump and dump,“ the alcohol will not fully leave breastmilk until it has been metabolized. So no, pumping and dumping does not rid milk of alcohol because if there is still alcohol in the bloodstream, it will continue to be in the milk.
When a person heavily drinks and is neurologically impaired, we run into an unsafe parenting situation. This makes co-sleeping extremely dangerous as well as inhibits effective decision-making and judgment. Heavy alcohol use has also been known to cause negative neurological and physical effects in infants and frequent alcohol use is not recommended.
A sober adult should always be present when alcohol or other intoxicants are being used around your child.
There are some other considerations to take into account when having a drink as well. The alcohol itself can inhibit letdown because it blocks the release of oxytocin (the hormone needed for milk ejection). It may reduce the amount of milk the infant typically takes in at any given feeding session by approximately 23%2. This is because prolactin (milk-making hormone) production is inhibited. Once the alcohol has left the system, hormone production, and processes tend to return to a typical functioning state.
Another thing to consider is the infant’s age. Newborns’ livers are not able to perform the processes necessary to efficiently filter the alcohol as well as adults’ or even older babies. It is also good to note that infants who have been exposed to alcohol may be sleepier but have shorter sleep periods and tend to wake more frequently.
All this to say that most research has found that the occasional drink while breastfeeding does not yield long-term negative effects on the infant and that mothers do not need to unnecessarily restrict their diets.
So don’t feel bad about a beer at dinner or a glass of champagne on New Year’s Eve! Use your instincts and trust your intuition. Happy Holidays!
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Megan is a Board Certified Lactation Consultant serving the Portland area. She has been providing in-home support or clients since 2017 and is one of our favorite IBCLCs to refer to.
You Can Find Megan and Lotus Lactation
Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org
Read more about her here
Learn more about our Portland postpartum doula team
Disclaimer: This article is not meant to diagnose, treat, or cure any condition. It is meant to provide information and consolidate current research. Consideration of alcohol should be discussed with your healthcare provider before consumption.
- Wambach K, Riordan J. Breastfeeding and human Lactation. Fifth ed. Burlington, MA, United States: Jones and Bartlett Publishers; 2016:386 chap 10.
- Mennella J, Beauchamp G. The Transfer of alcohol to human milk. Effects on Flavor and the infant’s behavior. The New England Journal of Medicine. 1991:325(14):981-5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1886634?dopt=Abstract
- Lauwers J, Swisher A. Counseling the nursing mother: A lactation consultant’s guide. Fifth ed. Sudbury, MA: Jones and Bartlett Publishers; 2011:233 chap 10.
- Bontata K, IBCLC. Breastfeeding and Alcohol. Kellymom. http://kellymom.com/bf/can-i-breastfeed/lifestyle/alcohol/. Accessed December 29, 2016.
- Alcohol and Breastfeeding. Infant Risk Center. http://www.infantrisk.com/content/alcohol-and-breastfeeding. Accessed December 29, 2016.