by: Adrienne Koznek, IBCLC and Alicia Hart, ND
After abstaining from alcohol during pregnancy, many women are curious to find out when they can have a drink after the baby is born. There is quite a bit of misinformation regarding alcohol and breastfeeding, so I hope to clear some of it up.
A question I often hear from nursing mothers is ?is it safe to drink alcohol while breastfeeding??
The short answer is: generally, yes.
There are, of course, caveats to this, as with most questions regarding infants. Above all things, you know your own body and your baby the best, so you do what you feel is best for you. If having a glass of wine over the holidays is something you desire, then consider the following:
- Think of your breast milk as blood (that?s basically what breast milk is – modified blood). Concentration of alcohol in your breast milk is going to mirror the concentration in your blood. Your body will metabolize the alcohol in your breast milk at the same rate as it will your blood. What does this mean? It means that a general rule to consider is that if you?re safe to drive, you?re safe to nurse.
- Alcohol can be transferred to your baby via breast milk; however, the amount is minimal. Healthy, full-term infants will likely not be affected by one alcoholic beverage. If you are nursing a medically fragile infant or a preemie, discuss your questions with your healthcare provider.
- ?Pumping and dumping? is not a thing. It?s a common myth that one can do this to get the alcohol out of their milk faster – this is untrue. Pumping will not make you metabolize the milk any faster.
- It?s not uncommon to see alcohol testing strips on the shelves at stores. They are marketed to mothers to give them ?peace of mind? about the safety of their breast milk. These test strips are unnecessary and can also be wildly inaccurate. This may cause unnecessary worry.
- Heavy drinking for women is considered 8 servings of alcohol per week. Having 4 or more drinks within an evening is considered binge drinking. As a culture, we socially prefer to binge drink and that?s not a healthy way to consume alcohol. ?Wine moms? are also a cultural phenomena, but that mindset can also lead to alcoholism. Please be mindful of your intake, and be mindful of when that intake is exceeding healthy limits.
When can you drink? Consider that it takes roughly an hour to metabolize one alcoholic beverage. Some mothers prefer to time their beverages for immediately after nursing, so the alcohol will generally have been completely metabolized by the time the baby needs to nurse again (often around 2 hours for infants).
Because you know your body best, think about what your own tolerance for alcohol is (it may not be what it used to be!). Being drunk can make parenting difficult ? drunkenness is often riskier than any potential exposure to alcohol in breast milk. Like many parenting decisions, there are no hard and fast rules for drinking while breastfeeding. However, if you enjoy a glass of wine or a cocktail every once in awhile, take these guidelines into consideration.
If you?re not comfortable with it and don?t want to take any additional risks? Then don?t drink! But if Aunt Mildred is handing you a glass of that extra good eggnog that you?ve been craving since last year, don?t lose sleep over having a drink or two at your holiday dinners this season.