Alcohol is a big part of many societies around the world. Celebrations often include alcohol. So where does that leave us lactating mothers? What about us?!?! Can we enjoy a glass of wine or beer? Will if affect our supply? Will it affect our babies?
The following are some points to consider when thinking about drinking some alcohol as a breastfeeding mother…
1. When your blood alcohol level drops, so do the levels in your breastmilk.
2. For the average sized woman, the alcohol content (after drinking one standard drink) in her milk will be highest 30-90 minutes after she has ingested it and will be out of her system after about two hours. Therefor two standard drinks will take four hours to be completely eliminated from her system, three drinks will take six hours etc…
3. Studies show that EXCESS levels of alcohol may lead to, “drowsiness, deep sleep, weakness and decreased linear growth in infant” (Hale, 2010 p. 382). Hale (2010) then goes on to state, “Other studies have suggested psycho-motor delay in infants of moderate drinkers (2+ drinks daily), and to, “avoid breastfeeding for at least 2-3 hours after moderate drinking of alcohol” (p.382). What’s the crucial take home message here? The risks to infants according to the research we’re talking about here is EXCESS levels…not a drink or two occasionally with dinner.
4. According to Hale (2010), the Lactation Risk Category is L3 which means it is considered moderately safe. It is also clear from the very large body of research on the risks of formula that “it is better for a baby to drink breastmilk which has a small amount of alcohol in it, than have a bottle of formula” (Australian Breastfeeding Association, 2013).
5. There is a wives tale that drinking a beer will help stimulate a woman’s prolactin levels but studies show that it actually prohibits oxytocin which is necessary for a woman’s let down to occur. We do know though that simply being with your baby and breastfeeding frequently is the best way to help oxytocin flow and encourage your let down to occur.
So what’s a mum to do?! You have avoided alcohol for over nine months now! You just want a glass of wine!
How you can decrease the chance of your baby receiving alcohol in your breastmilk…
1. Breastfeed your baby right before you are going to have one standard drink. This way you know you will be more likely to have a break before you have to feed again. The older your baby is, the more likely you will be on somewhat of a schedule. If you know your little breastfeeder will sleep for 2-3 hours when you first put her down for bed, this might be the ideal time for you to have your glass of wine.
2.Check the bottle of wine, beer etc. to see how many standard drinks are in that bottle or will be in the one glass you have from the bottle.
3. Eat before you have a drink and during. Also drink water before, during and after.
4. Choose an alcoholic beverage that is lower in alcohol.
5. Avoid alcohol during the first month or so after your baby is born.
6. Do not bed share after you have been drinking. This increases the risk of SIDS and is not considered safe.
7. It is generally agreed upon; if you feel sober and your blood alcohol is low enough to drive, then you are OK to breastfeed.
8. DO NOT PUMP AND DUMP if you are trying to get rid of the alcohol in your breastmilk. The only thing that lowers the levels in your breastmilk is time, NOT pumping and dumping.
Many breastfeeding women are able to enjoy some alcohol if they put in a bit of planning and thought beforehand. As mentioned previously, breastmilk with a small amount of alcohol is a better option than formula.
…and from Mr. The Milk
“If you are still concerned about alcohol and breastfeeding just pass your drink to your partner or friend, I’m sure they will be happy to help you out. ‘Tis the season of giving after all.” Oh, the wisdom of my husband…*sigh. 🙄
Australian Breastfeeding Association, 2013, Alcohol and breastfeeding, a guide for mothers, ABA.
Hale, T 2010, Medication and mother’s milk, 14 edn, Hale Publishing, Amarillo
Do you need some support and have some breastfeeding questions? CLICK HERE to book a breastfeeding consultation with Meg. Consults available via Skype, phone or in person.