Alchohol & breastfeeding

Alchohol & breastfeeding

So you have finally had your baby and after 9 months of no alcohol you are keen for a wine! BUT you are breastfeeding!

Can I drink alcohol if I am breastfeeding?
If you want to, you can enjoy a glass of wine, a beer or whatever it is that you choose to drink. The key is to plan ahead.
The concentration of alcohol in your blood is the concentration of alcohol in your milk. Alcohol gets into your breastmilk from your blood, moving freely from the blood to the breastmilk (and back out again).

Alcohol will be in your breastmilk 30–60 minutes after you start drinking.
A number of factors affect how much alcohol gets into your breastmilk, including:
● the strength and amount of alcohol in your drink
● what and how much you’ve eaten
● how much you weigh
● how quickly you are drinking.

As a general rule, it takes 2 hours for an average woman to get rid of the alcohol from 1standard alcoholic drink and therefore 4 hours for 2 drinks, 6 hours for 3 drinks and so on. The time is taken from the start of drinking.
Only time will reduce the amount of alcohol in the milk in your breasts.
Once you stop drinking, and the amount of alcohol in your blood drops, the amount in the milk in your breasts will too.

Key points:
● Current research says that occasional use of alcohol (1-2 drinks) does not
appear to be harmful to the nursing baby. Many experts recommend
against drinking more than 1-2 drinks per week.
● Per Hale (2019), “mothers who ingest alcohol in moderate amounts can
generally return to breastfeeding as soon as they feel neurologically
● The American Academy of Pediatrics states: “ingestion of alcoholic
beverages should be minimized and limited to an occasional intake but no
more than 0.5 g alcohol per kg body weight, which for a 60 kg mother is
approximately 2 oz liquor, 8 oz wine, or 2 beers. Nursing should take place
2 hours or longer after the alcohol intake to minimize its concentration in
the ingested milk.”
● Alcohol does NOT increase milk production, and has been shown to inhibit
let-down and decrease milk production (see below).

‘Pumping and dumping’ (expressing breastmilk and throwing it away) will not reduce the amount of alcohol in your breastmilk. You also do not need to do this once the alcohol has passed through your system – alcohol is not ‘stored’ in the milk in your breasts, just as it doesn’t remain in your blood. Once the alcohol is out of your blood, it will be out of your breastmilk.
When breastmilk with alcohol is expressed, that expressed breastmilk will contain and continue to contain alcohol.

The safest option when breastfeeding is to avoid drinking alcohol altogether.
However, planning ahead can allow you to express some milk for your baby ahead of time. Your baby can have this milk if you miss a feed while drinking, or while you are waiting for the amount of alcohol in your milk to drop.

If you are breastfeeding and plan to consume alcohol, it is best to plan ahead. However, if, on a single occasion, you have a little more alcohol than you had planned to or if your baby needs to feed sooner than you had anticipated it is OK to breastfeed your baby.
Feedsafe is a great app to use.

Key message:
● In general, if you are sober enough to drive, you are sober enough to breastfeed. Less than 2% of the alcohol consumed by the mother reaches her blood and milk.
● Always keep in mind the baby’s age when considering the effect of alcohol. A
newborn has a very immature liver, so minute amounts of alcohol would be more of a burden. Up until around 3 months of age, infants detoxify alcohol at around half the rate of an adult. An older baby or toddler can metabolize the alcohol more quickly.

Julia Daly

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