Alcohol and Breastfeeding

Alcohol and breastfeeding is a confusing topic. Can you drink at all? How much is too much? Here’s the bottom line, and the facts may surprise you.

Alcohol and breastfeeding can be a confusing topic with lots of conflicting information. Here we'll tell you the bottom line, and you may be surprised!

You spent 9 months steering clear of the wine (or mostly), and now that baby has arrived, you’re wondering if alcohol and breastfeeding can ever mix.

And the answer is… sometimes. Sort of. Yes. But, wait, no.

There’s a lot of conflicting information out there! It’s no wonder that moms feel confused about whether it’s ever ok to have a drink while their baby or toddler is continuing to nurse.

Alcohol and breastfeeding

When it comes to drinking while breastfeeding, moderation is key. A single drink is unlikely to affect your baby, especially if you time your drink well. (Like after dinner when baby is sleeping.)

Some moms have their drink while or right after baby is nursing. This way, by the time the alcohol gets into her bloodstream (and milk), baby is already finished and won’t need to nurse for at least couple of hours.

According to the La Leche League’s Ultimate Book of Breastfeeding Answers:

“Alcohol passes freely into mother’s milk and has been found to peak about 30 to 60 minutes after consumption, 60 to 90 minutes when taken with food. Alcohol also freely passes out of a mother’s milk and her system.

It takes a 120 pound woman about two to three hours to eliminate from her body the alcohol in one serving of beer or wine…the more alcohol that is consumed, the longer it takes for it to be eliminated. It takes up to 13 hours for a 120 pound woman to eliminate the alcohol from one high-alcohol drink.

The effects of alcohol on the breastfeeding baby are directly related to the amount the mother consumes.”

The slower you drink, the less alcohol you will have in your bloodstream at one time. Also consider the kind of drink you are having. Hard liquor (high-alcohol) will contain more alcohol and take much longer to clear from your system.

Can I drink more if I pump and dump?

Alcohol is present in the breastmilk at the same rate as it is present in the bloodstream. That means that you can’t just pump the alcoholic milk out and have clean milk for baby while you are still buzzing. Your milk will continue to be as saturated as your bloodstream is.

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How will I know if it’s safe to nurse baby?

The general rule is that if you wouldn’t drive, you shouldn’t feed your baby. You may find it reassuring to use alcohol test strips like these ones when you have a drink so you can be sure there is no alcohol in your breastmilk. You’ll start to get the hang of how you feel in relation to how safe you milk is. Note that these strips will signal any amount of alcohol in the breastmilk, not just large amounts.

What should I do if I drink too much?

Wait it out. Once you are feeling sober again you can resume nursing your baby. If your infant gets hungry before this time, feed him a bottle (or finger feed) from your freezer stash. To keep your milk supply up, you may want to pump to send your body the signal that it’s meal time for baby. This is when you would want to “pump and dump,” since the milk won’t be safe to save for baby.

For older babies and toddlers, you can usually just wait on a nursing session. After the first few months, baby can usually go a while (5+ hours) without nursing. Just remember that if you use up that stretch during the day, he is likely to nurse often through the night to catch up. On the other hand, he may want to nurse if you feed him a bottle because he wants closeness and extra skin-to-skin time. Just ask any working mom. Babies who don’t nurse during the day tend to make up for it at night and on weekends.

What if I can’t stop drinking?

If you find yourself craving more and more alcohol and it’s affecting your breastfeeding relationship regularly, it may be time to check in with a counselor or visit an Alcoholic Anonymous meeting. Feelings of regret, shame or intense crave are not healthy and need to be addressed immediately.

Drinking and breastfeeding bottom line

An occasional drink is fine. Have your drink while baby nurses so you’ll have lots of time to metabolize the alcohol before baby nurses again. If you feel ok to drive, you’re generally ok to nurse.

Keep in mind that “ok to drive” equates to about 1.5-2 servings of beer or wine.

No need to pump and dump unless you need to keep up supply.

There you have it!

How about you?

What did your doctor tell you about alcohol and breastfeeding? Under what circumstances have you pumped and dumped?

Genevieve Howland

About the Author

Genevieve Howland is a childbirth educator and breastfeeding advocate. She is the bestselling author of The Mama Natural Week-by-Week Guide to Pregnancy and Childbirth and creator of the Mama Natural Birth Course. A mother of three, graduate of the University of Colorado, and YouTuber with over 130,000,000 views, she helps mothers and moms-to-be lead healthier and more natural lives.


  1. Alcohol can pass into breast milk, and its effects on the baby depend on several factors, including the amount of alcohol consumed, the mother’s weight, word hurdle and the time elapsed since drinking.

  2. Hi!

    I think it’d be good to mention that a bit of beer, esp beer stout helps with milk production as well as milk quality.

  3. * Please don’t comment back on this, I will not look back at this post, because i am comfortable with the decisions i have made regarding my alcohol consumption while breastfeeding.

    I’ve personally decided that having a beer/ glass of wine on any given day does not prick my conscience. (I don’t drink daily, but will indulge at family events, or when out to dinner with friend with,or without baby).

    I think the decision to drink comes down to what settles best with your conscience and what your instincts lead you to.

    For example:

    My husband and I had a night on the town with his cousins when we went to Italy this summer (my daughter was 5 months old, and was sleeping 10pm-9am without getting up). while we were out, I had 3 shots and 2 mixed drinks (since i dont drink often, i was drunk). My mom was watching my daughter in the hotel room. When we got back i pumped and dumped (around 3am). The next morning at 9am i nursed her like normal, AFTER i assessed whether i felt comfortable to nurse her, i was so i did. she went back to sleep (normal she does that often). she got up after 10 minutes and so i walked her over to my moms rooms so i had back up help since i had a headache and was a little nauseated. my daughter, my mom, and i spent the rest of the morning hanging out on the hotel patio playing, laughing, and drinking cappuccinos (not baby, of course).

    I share this story to say, go with your instinct mama. if you feel uncomfortable drinking and nursing, pump a couple bags ahead and bottle feed little bub until you feel ok with it, or dont drink at all, or wait a few hours until youre sobered up. Resources are a guide, and at the end of the day, you have to choose what you feel most comfortable with.

    Hope me sharing my personal choices help.

    *Best of luck mama!

    • Thanks Genevieve, very well addressed, you gave facts in various scenarios.

      Skyla, I believe the comments was in response to is it safe to breastfeed if you consumed alcohol not should you drink or not drink base on your conscience. It sounds like according to what Genevieve pointed out, you dumped and waited enough hours to safely breastfeed. Thanks for sharing.

    • Don’t comment on a public post and not expect people to comment just because you say so. That negativity transferred over to your story and was uncalled for. Glad you’re okay with your personal choices though.

  4. If I drink around 3 standard drinks almost every day should I stop breastfeeding my 3 month old son? He’s exclusively breastfed except for one bottle of formula around 8pm just before bed. I start drinking after our last breastfeed, around 6pm. He breastfeeds again at 3am. Don’t tell me to stop drinking—that’s not my question. I want to know about the lesser of two evils. Slightly alcoholic breastmilk or formula? Thanks!

    • Please discuss with your and your baby’s provider. Three drinks per day can be problematic three months postpartum for many reasons.

  5. First thing I was worried about when got prego was not drinking wine, even occasionally. Good think is – forgot about immediately! Had so much to worry and my taste changed a lot, I was perfectly happy whitout it. But know, when I’m coming to half year of feeding – I am considering a little glorious drink with my bffs! My breastfeeding guide (I use this one ) says it’s ok as long as it is occasionally and you wait few hours. Since you’re saying pretty much the same – seems trustworthy.

    • I’ve just read this guide and must say that I LOVE IT! It doesn’t treat breastfeeding women like they were sick or something. It tells how to cope with breastfeeding with modern way. Excellent guide, thanks for the source 🙂

      • After reading your comment I decided to try and read Urban’s guide. I came here to give other moms some feedback. I think it’s a great help. The guide is short so I didn’t have to read 200 pages to get to know everything I should know about breastfeeding. I love that it’s in the form of the e-book so I could read it everywhere on my phone. Very handy! So 10 stars out of 10 from me 🙂

  6. Thank you for the article, I’ve learned a lot from it! 🙂
    My doctor said, as long as my baby passed a 6 month threshold, I could drink a glass of red dry wine (100-150 ml) now and then with no need to pump and dump. She also added as long as I don’t get buzzed, I can breastfeed right away after drinking, although, I’ve never done this. I’d better wait for an hour or two, just two make sure the alcohol is out of the system.
    Actually, I have a question, if I already had breasts full of milk when I started drinking, then I was a little buzzed and went sober without any feeding sessions (meaning my breasts were full in the beginning but I had no additional let downs in the process), should I pump the milk that has already been in my breasts before I started drinking? Is it going to contain alcohol or nor?

  7. I need a drink after reading these comments…

    • Lol is there any hope for humanity?

  8. Amazed by the attacks here against drinking. Ladies….Before access to sanitary water guess what women, men, and children drank throughout history? Fermented alcoholic beverages like beer and wine instead of water. These are pregnant, nursing moms, small and older children, toddlers. Were they drunken? No….And many of the inventions of the industrial revolution, early break through in science, arts, technology, philosophy etc. happened during these time periods.

    Now, that doesn’t mean we should go and do the same because we have a choice but to treat someone who wants to have a beer or glass of wine here and there is not something to attack and shame another woman with. Nor should you be so black and white as to suggest formula. Goodness….My boys are both waaaaay ahead in schooling and cognitive understanding and I had a beer/wine here and there and a couple times here and there never got a buzz, forgot I had drank anything and still breastfed….No one missed development markers or have any negative results. Now, if I did drink, I did not co-sleeping and put baby in co-sleepers with side up to be safe if either of us had a drink….Better safe than sorry cuz I sometimes sleep hard after even one drink if I am tired…. But usually I would deliberately not drink at night while having an infant in co-sleeper.

    We need to sit down, breathe and stop attacking… Let’s use our wonderful and blessed brains to step out of the modern world and think about how motherhood has happened for thousands of years. We all survived and have built on the past while moving into the future. Just because it used to be done doesn’t mean it’s bad or even better…..But it has to be taken into account.

    So if you don’t drink, cool but don’t judge other’s choices–not your business…

    If you do, be responsible cuz you have a life you are responsible for, so partying prob isn’t best idea because it impairs you past a certain point to care for your family.

    If you barely drink and even forget you drank anything…Don’t beat yourself up cuz a tense, upset mommy is worse than that small amount of alcohol that the baby might drink by chance. Just don’t do it a ton. And breast milk is always the best option.

    So relax and just enjoy having a baby….And don’t let others bully you or make you feel inferior for your choices or mistakes….Cuz we all aren’t perfect… Woopsies will happen.

  9. This post helps me understand the risks of drinking even though . I don’t drink a lot

  10. I have a glass of wine here and there after baby goes to bed in the evening. I did not drink at all while pregnant. To be honest, it was a personal choice I made that I do not regret. I would never feed my baby with in the time frame of it still being in my system, but that is three hours. The benefits of bf the other 162 hours a week are still there.
    If it is not for you, more power to you! But please stop passing judgment on other moms. We are all trying to navigate through this experience the best way we know how. Love and positive energy. Let’s support one another!

  11. Good points but not a fan of this article. If you really want to know for sure, ask an IBCLC, International Board Certified Lactation Consultant. I’ve asked several and I’ve always been told the amount of alcohol in your milk, even if you’re plastered drunk, isn’t enough to effect baby. Like one shot of 80proof alcohol in 4 Olympic swimming pools.
    The danger comes in when you try to care for your child. When you’re drunk you can stumble, fall, and not wake up when baby is crying. So it is okay to drink, even get drunk and save the milk if you want, but let someone else care for baby’s needs.

    • My certified lactation consultant at the hospital told us the same thing – that we should pump to maintain supply and can save the milk for another time. I’ve been pumping if I drink to keep supply, and freeze the milk for another time.

    • This information is not correct. Speak with a IBCLC certified lactation consultant or check Dr. Jack Newmans website.

      • Sorry. I agree with the commenter. Not the original poster lol

    • I agree! Just reading this article now but my Board Certified Lactation Consultant and OBGYN and Ped. told me the same thing and gave me the research to back it up. You can really drink whatever and it’s not going to effect your baby but you may want someone around to help you care for your baby 🙂

    • YES! To Kelly – worst case scenario, you drop the baby. My husband and I had a few drinks last night, (he more than I) and i laughed when our 3.5 month old pooped and said he had to change it – he said ” i have to be honest, i have had a few too many and dont really trust myself picking him up”. I couldn’t have been more proud.

    • On this note, though, in my area (Nebraska), a story of a woman who had called the cops cause her newborn, I believe 2 weeks old, wasn’t breathing. He was lifeflighted and pronounced dead, heartbreakingly. The mother was breathalyzer AFTER all of this, and still blew some astronomical amount. A .13+. Now, maybe this is an exaggeration I choose to believe cause what first time doesn’t but Into fear mongering at least once? Haha. But it leaves questioning both original poster and this comment!!

      • Did they say the lady breast fed? It’s possible she was drunk and let the baby sleep in unsafe conditions with in caused SIDS.

  12. LOVE this article! Makes perfect sense. So glad I found this. I was worried about drinking, I mean I don’t drink a lot but dang, I think I’ve earned a beer here and there!!! No one is talking about getting wasted and feeding a kid, but this is great to know.

  13. I agree with MJ.
    The effects of alcohol on an immature brain are proven facts. Besides alcoholism, another risk is juvenile epilepsy.
    Why risk your child’s health? If you can’t abstain, the best and most guilt free choice is switching to formula.

    • Ok so it passes freely into the breastmilk… And the concentration is the SAME as in the bloodstream. Isnt the concentration in the bloodstream when drinking heavily somwhere around 2 promile. And the concentration of alc in an actual beverage is around 15 procent!!!!! Imho there is no way the child can get nowhere near drunk just by breastfeeding. It would be as if he ate somwhat fermented fruit and much less than that. I would appreciate if someone revised my math…. Also, english is not my native language, hope you understand what I ment to say…

    • I’m sorry, but you are absolutely wrong. Breastfeeding is far, far better than formula, even if you have a drink or two. Lactation consultants all agree and you are basing the this on misinformation. After abstaining from alcohol during my pregnancy, I couldn’t wait to have a glass of wine every night. Yup, you read that right, every night. And my toddler is turning 2 tomorrow and we are still breastfeeding. Had I believed this garbage I would have guilted myself into stopping breastfeeding early. My little guy is so smart and ahead of all the developmental milestones in all areas. No way a glass of wine for his momma affected him. In fact, it probably made me a better parent.

      • I completely disagree with the “pump and dump” method. There are SOOO many ways you can use breastmilk besides your baby drinking it. Save, and give your baby a milky bath it’s good for the skin.

      • Thank you for your comment and honesty!

  14. More than one person a generation older than me told me that they had a beer at the hospital to help bring the milk. My first beer after my blood pressure checked out increased my milk flow by at least double. I didn’t get drunk until he was on formula, but had a beer once and a while with dinner.

    • When I had my first two children, 20 and 18 now, the hospital offered a complimentary bottle of wine for the parents to enjoy the evening before leaving the hospital 😉 Fantastic.

  15. Hah, in the olden days, women (including my mum, but she had champagne – she has expensive tastes!) used to drink stout to increase their milkflow, and also during the 3rd trimester of pregnancy for extra nutrients. They could just eat more good food, though.

  16. Do you know why the legal drinking age in the US is 21 and not 18, the age of adulthood? Because the blood-brain barrier is not fullt developed until the age of 21 and introducing alcohol (or any other addictive substance) into the body before the blood-brain barrier has the ability to filter properly and the body knows it doesn’t need that substance to function. Even in small amounts, when introducing alcohol to a baby’s system, it teaches their body that the body needs that substance to function. I read this study long ago, before it was popular to influence research to to your personal preference and people had morals and ethics and followed a conscious.

    Alcohol just is not a good option, we can literally stop consuming it until we are done being pregnant and nursing, seriously.

    • Everyone look at M.J. She is being sanctimonious and needs attention.

    • Great info! I agree that we just need to STOP drinking while prego or nursing. If you can’t, then feed your child formula. It would be a better decision for their health and safety.

    • The drinking age is 21 because of highways actually. It’s up to the states to set the drinking age but the federal government wanted to entice the states to raise it, so they offered funds for highway construction if they did.

    • I agree with you. Why take a chance? If I can go 9 months without a drink, certainly I can go without it another 9 while nursing. Mothers need to stop being selfish.

      • HA! Your being rude, not everyone is like you. And btw no mother is selfish if they went through pregnancy and is nursing a child. Gave up the rest of our freedom for our children, how can that ever be selfish. Hope you keep an open mind

      • Melanie and M.J. I completely agree with you! I can’t believe how naive and selfish some women can be. If you can’t give up alcohol and smoking for you baby (while pregnant and nursing) maybe you should take a step back and realize all the harm you could be causing. I think people like that need some more education. There are proven facts why you should not drink or smoke while pregnant or nursing. Common sense also goes a long way!

        • This article is informing mothers on when it’s safe to have a drink and breast feed aka it’s no longer in their milk and would have no effect on the baby. So it’s safe to say that mothers can have drinks and continue to nurse without any alcohol ever reaching the baby. Of course, the mother needs to be cognizant of the timing and amounts and even use the test strips to be sure. It does not make the mother selfish to have a drink or mean the alternative is formula feeding (Wtf???) As long as she is enjoying alcohol responsibly, ( and yes someone else is caring for baby if she is impaired) then there’s nothing wrong. Growing baby for 9 months+, childbirth, beginning challenges of nursing and being a new mom….I say YES mom deserves a Damn drink or two if she so desires! Not waiting until baby is no longer nursing does not make her selfish. For some mothers they prefer to wait or don’t desire a drink and that’s great for them, but don’t judge the other moms who work their ass off and spend every other waking moment caring for her child and nursing is as utmost importance for her baby and want to have drinks responsibly. You need to switch to formula? Get outta here! Btw, brain continues to develop until age 25~ not 21 and that’s not the reason the age limit is 21. Cheers to all hard working mamas out there!! ??

    • Geez….I hope you didn’t get an epidural! Because that FOR SURE gets to the baby…and you’d be a really bad mom for giving your baby drugs at birth.

      • ???Have your glass of wine and enjoy it moms!! Otherwise you could end up stuck up and miserable like some of the moms commenting here!

      • This comment really sucks! Im a first time mom and was trying my hardest to go without the epidural I was in labor for about 32 hours and everyone was worried that I was going to have complications if I didn’t get some rest. So they suggested many times to get it. And yes I finally did get it! Although I would of loved to do it without I’m glad everything went well and my baby is a healthy baby by the way.

    • Please cite your source. If you refer to a study, it’s irrelevant if you don’t provide a reference.

      • My post is in directed at MJ

    • Agreed, why risk it? Nursing my seventh baby now and don’t plan to have a drink until he is weaned in a couple years.

    • Oh my gosh! Some judgemental posts here! What gives you the right to be so high and mighty? Just out of curiosity did you go through child birth with just breathing exercises? Have you gone with out pain relief since finding great out you were with child? Have you cut out all caffeine? Do you only eat natural sugars? If yes, amazing, good on you! You should preach your coping mechanisms!

      If no great! Welcome to the world of the majority! Governments see alcohol as
      easy to tax, easy to monitor if legal. Same as sugars….easy to tax….unfortunately very rarely are they naturally produced however a lot of us like to indulge….does not make you a bad person. Please enjoy in moderation as part of a healthy balanced diet.

      For all those judgemental peeps go and troll your key board warrior hungry fingertips elsewhere ?

    • I have to say that I agree. Why introduce a substance to an infant if there is even a 1% chance it could harm them? There is an old saying “if it isn’t a problem then it isn’t a problem to stop”. Not to judge anyone just my opinion.

      • So, to all you mom’s out there so against having a drink because it could “harm” your baby… Are you also not consuming food dye? or GMO’s? or any type of pain medication? Do you have your own meat supply and are raising your own chickens for their fresh eggs? Are you growing all of your own vegetables to stay away from pesticides?

        All of these things can be “harmful” to your baby yet no one talks about those. They only judge the moms that have a drink or two when they want to. Calling other mom’s irresponsible for having a few drinks and are reading articles and doing their research to ensure they know the milk will be safe is literally the opposite of irresponsible.

        Why don’t we try being there and helping each other instead of joining the rest of the world in judgement?

  17. When my daughter got to where she slept through the night, I would have a glass or two of wine two or three nights a week right after I put her to bed. I think this is a topic that a lot of new moms are afraid to ask about. I have two pregnant friends who know I nursed -and that I like my wine- and they have both asked me about it, but they honestly probably wouldn’t ask their doctor. I didn’t! Let’s be honest. If you are used to having your wine regularly like I am -and my friends who were asking- and then you go nine long months without you really just want to know “When the heck can I have a drink again?!” Moderation I think is key.

  18. I can’t stand the taste of alcoholic beverages, I say that I eat my wine, because the complex flavors taste awesome in sauce, or used to marinate a roast. (I sound like a horrible Greek and Italian person to most others of the same nationality) I did have to pump and dumb for a week when I was hospitalized with septic arthritis, but that was cause of a whole host of nasty medications.

    I have met a few moms who swore by a bottle of beer for increased production however!

    • but you can drink non alcoholic beer for milk production as well. Its the yeast that helps supply not the alcohol content.

      • Or just make lactation cookies with brewers yeast. Non-Alcoholic beer, contrary to its name, is NOT actually non-alcoholic. It just has a very low percentage.

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