Alcohol and Breastfeeding

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.

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?

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35 Comments

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  1. This is a disappointing article. It appears to be based on very very little research. It’s a bold move to be putting this information out as solid fact based on almost nothing. Especially considering how many eyes are on this blog. Please offer primary sources for the info you are sharing. Something more than a quote from a La leche League book would be responsible in the least. Seriously. What did you base this post on? Clearly not academic research.

  2. 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.

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

  4. 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!

  5. 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 🙂

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

  10. 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.

    • M.J – thank you!!! I could not believe that this post actually ENCOURAGED drinking while nursing!! I stopped smoking and drinking the instant I found out I was pregnant. We are done nursing now, but I would have never thought it was ok to drink while nursing! Not to mention the fact that our pediatrician made it very clear that that is NOT OK. Shame on the writer of this article for spreading mis- and dangerous information!

    • 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!

    • 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.

  11. 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.

  12. 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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