Can drinking alcohol while breastfeeding affect my baby?
How often can I drink while breastfeeding? What precautions should I take?
How long should I wait to breastfeed after drinking?
These are some of the questions that come to mind when a new mother is in the habit of drinking alcohol. When after spending nine months without drinking alcohol, you might be wondering if you can have alcohol safely while nursing.
While there are many studies which show that drinking alcohol during pregnancy poses risk to the fetus, the effects of drinking alcohol while breastfeeding is not clearly defined.
Majority of the health practitioners recommend that the safest option for breastfeeding mothers is not to drink alcohol. However, if you are planning to consume alcohol you should be aware of its effects and also about the precautions to be taken.
Let us first see how alcohol can affect your breast milk and your child.
Will my breast milk have alcohol content if I drink alcohol?
Yes, if you are consuming alcohol it will be passed into your breast milk. The general rule is as long as there is alcohol in the mother’s blood, the breast milk also contains alcohol.
Once you drink alcohol, it gets into your blood and then to your breast milk within 30-60 minutes when had empty stomach and 60 to 90 minutes when taken with food.
Again, the amount of alcohol that is present in your breast milk depends on a number of factors such as
- the amount of alcohol in your drink– hard liquor will contain more alcohol and as such will take a longer time to eliminate from your breastmilk.
- frequency of your drinking – the less frequent you drink, the less alcohol you will have in your blood at one time
- whether you are drinking on an empty stomach or drinking after a meal
- how much you weigh– the more you weigh, the longer time will be taken to eliminate alcohol from your breast milk
For an average 54kg woman, it will take around 2 to 3 hours for the alcohol content from 1 serving of beer or wine to get eliminated from the blood. So there needs to be a time gap before you breastfeed after consuming alcohol. It is advisable to wait for two to three hours after drinking one alcoholic drink before nursing your baby.
Again if you are drinking too much or enjoying a very high alcohol content drink or having drinks frequently with out much time gaps in between, the alcohol content in your breastmilk will take more time to get out of your breastmilk. So you will need to wait more than 2 to 3 hours before you can breastfeed your child.
What will be the effects of alcohol on my breastmilk?
There is this popular belief that drinking beer can increase breast milk, but it is not proved by any scientific research.
But on the other hand drinking alcohol dehydrates your body and in turn, can negatively affect the milk supply. It can inhibit let down and decrease breast milk production.
Also, mothers may experience less milk production as the alcohol may disrupt the hormones that control the production of breastmilk. So, if you have trouble with milk production, it is best to avoid alcohol while breastfeeding.
More side effects of alcohol in breast milk include an impact in the smell and taste of the breast milk. Your breast milk after a drink can sometimes smell like alcohol and taste different too.
In short, a glass of that not so healthy drink can negatively impact the quality and quantity of your breast milk.
How will drinking alcohol while breastfeeding affect my baby?
It is usually said that whatever a mother eats and drinks, baby gets it through breast milk, alcohol is no exception.
If you drink, it is very important to know the effects of drinking alcohol while breastfeeding your baby. An occasional drink will not harm your baby but regular drinking will affect your baby’s development.
A newborn baby has an immature liver and so drinking alcohol while breastfeeding has to be completely avoided.
At around three months of age, babies process alcohol at around half the rate of an adult. An older baby can metabolize the alcohol more quickly. It means that alcohol stays in the system of infants for a longer time than older babies and toddler.
Consuming alcohol when your baby is less than three months is not viable as the baby’s brain is still developing, so breastfeeding mothers need to be very careful. Also, newborns nurse frequently and you cannot wait for two to three hours for the alcohol to get rid of from your breastmilk.
For the above-said reasons, for mothers who have babies less than three months and are exclusively breastfed, the answer is no to alcohol.
If you are drinking alcohol and nursing, baby’s sleep patterns may be disturbed; however, there is no evidence to prove this. They may fall asleep quickly but for a shorter amount of time.
Babies consume less milk if alcohol is present in the breast milk which means you will have to feed often.
Excess levels of alcohol content in breast milk, as a result of binge drinking by mother, may lead to deep sleep, weakness, and drowsiness in children.
The long term drinking and breastfeeding effects on baby can be a decrease in growth or an impaired motor development.
Does pumping and dumping milk help get rid of alcohol in breast milk faster?
No. Pumping an dumping will not eliminate or speed up the process of elimination of the alcohol content in your breastmilk. Your breastmilk will have an alcohol content as long as your blood has alcohol content. The only way is to wait it out till the alcohol content is nil in your blood and breast milk.
Drinking and breastfeeding guidelines
It is highly recommended that you avoid drinking alcohol completely if your baby is less than 3 months and is exclusively breastfeed. But if you choose to drink or has to drink in any occasion you should keep in mind certain things and do accordingly for the safety of the baby.
Note that this part of the post, in no way endorses drinking alcohol while breastfeeding or say that it is safe. The intention of this post is to help moms who are alcoholic and are breastfeeding and those moms who wish to occasionally drink and are looking for precautions or safe practices to do so.
Follow these strategies and recommendations if you are choosing to breastfeed your baby after drinking alcohol:
- Only one drink is advisable for a breastfeeding mom. This is so because the greater the amount of alcohol is consumed, greater is the time taken for the alcohol to be eliminated from the blood and breast milk.
- You can consider not choosing to breastfeed after drinking alcohol by expressing some milk for your baby before drinking alcohol or formula feeding your baby. Also, you need to feed your baby before having a drink.
- You should give sufficient time for the alcohol to be out of your blood and eventually from your breastmilk too.
- You need to keep in mind that you are providing nourishment to your baby by breastfeeding and so you need to drink in moderation. Heavy drinking will have adverse effects on your baby.
- Also, you should not stop breastfeeding altogether if you have had few drinks. Plan accordingly and wait for your system to be clear of alcohol and then breastfeed your baby.
- Breastfeeding should be avoided for two hours to three hours after the drink.
- Drinking after eating or having your drink while eating is recommended. As our body absorbs alcohol through the stomach and small intestine, eating before a drink helps lower the amount of alcohol in your blood and your milk.
- It is advisable to choose a low alcohol drink. You can also dilute the alcohol with juice, water or ice.
- To prevent dehydration after having alcohol you can drink a glass of water with your alcoholic drink.
- If you have consumed too much of alcohol, you should not nurse your baby. Pump when your breasts feel full and throw the expressed milk as this milk is not safe for your baby. This usually is required when your baby is very young and you have a good milk supply. Note that expression and dumping milk will not speed up the elimination of alcohol content from the breastmilk.
- Ask someone else to take care of your baby if you are drinking as drinking alcohol can decrease your ability to cater to your baby’s needs.
- Again, if you have consumed alcohol, you should not co-sleep with your baby as you might accidentally suffocate the baby while sleeping.
Finally, know that your baby is your priority and the choice is yours when it comes to drinking alcohol while breastfeeding. It will be best to wait till you are done with breastfeeding your baby because it is better to be safe than sorry. But in case you can’t, please make sure to follow the above-given guidelines for the good interest of the child.
What do you think about drinking alcohol while breastfeeding?
What precautions do you take while doing so?
Do share with us in your comments.