Alcohol & Breastfeeding: Is it Safe? Here’s What you Need to Know

Mom holding a glass of wine while baby naps

Alcohol & Breastfeeding: Is it Safe? Here’s What you Need to Know

Bringing a new life into the world is a remarkable journey filled with countless decisions. Amidst the excitement and nerves of setting up a nursery and choosing a name, new moms also have to consider steps to keep their baby safe.

One question that often lingers in the minds of new moms is whether they can enjoy a glass of wine or a cocktail while breastfeeding. Unfortunately, there is a lot of misinformation and folklore on this topic that can be both perplexing and worrisome for parents.

The bottom line is that your well-being and your baby’s health are of paramount importance, especially during this precious time of breastfeeding. So join us as we confront the fact about drinking alcohol while breastfeeding and discover a balanced approach that keeps everyone safe and happy. 

Effects of Alcohol on Breast Milk

If you’ve ever wondered how much alcohol really gets in breast milk, you’re not alone. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, alcohol can be found in breast-milk after a mother drinks. That’s because as you drink alcohol, it passes into your breast milk similar to how it enters your bloodstream.

The experts at the CDC emphasize that the alcohol levels are usually highest in breast milk 30 to 60 minutes after an alcoholic beverage is consumed. Generally, levels of alcohol can be detected in breast milk for about 2 to 3 hours per drink after it is consumed.

Of course, breast-milk alcohol levels depend on a variety of factors such as:

  • The amount of alcohol consumed
  • How fast the alcohol is consumed
  • Whether alcohol is consumed with food
  • Mother’s weight
  • How long it takes for the mother’s body to metabolize alcohol

Higher blood alcohol levels overall can also indicate higher breast-milk alcohol levels that last longer after drinking.

Risks of Consuming Alcohol While Breastfeeding

While it’s advised to not drink alcohol during pregnancy because it can affect baby’s health, mothers should also watch their alcohol consumption when breastfeeding.

Exposure to alcohol through breast milk may cause impaired motor development and changes in sleep patterns, according to the Mayo Clinic. Studies even show that alcohol can decrease milk production and that the presence of alcohol in breast milk causes babies to drink about 20% less breast milk.

To put it bluntly, it’s not safe for baby to drink breast-milk with any level of alcohol. Though a baby is only exposed to a fraction of the alcohol their mother drinks through breastfeeding, a newborn can’t eliminate alcohol from their system at the same rate an adult can.

Recommendations for Alcohol Consumption for Breastfeeding

Mom in spa robe drinking a glass of wine in bed

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that breastfeeding mothers limit their alcohol intake and refrain from drinking two hours or less before breastfeeding. While this is a good rule of thumb to follow, it can also be helpful to understand how much alcohol you can drink when breastfeeding and when it’s safe to feed baby after drinking.

How Long to Wait to Breastfeed After Drinking Chart

This chart can help you understand how long to wait to breastfeed after drinking based on the mother’s weight and the number of drinks consumed in an hour. Remember that one drink is widely considered to be 12 ounces of 5% beer, 5 ounces of 11% wine, or 1.5 ounces of 40% liquor. 

Mother’s Weight  (lbs)Number Of Drinks (Hours: Minutes)
1202:30 5:007:3010:0012:3115:0117:3120:0122:32
1402:19 4:386:589:1711:3713:5616:1518:3520:5423:14
1502:14 4:296:438:5811:1213:2715:4117:5620:1022:25
1602:10 4:206:308:4010:5013:0015:1017:2019:3021:40
1702:05 4:116:178:2310:2812:3414:4016:4618:5120:57
1802:01 4:036:058:0710:0812:1014:1216:1418:1520:17
1901:58 3:565:547:529:5011:4813:4615:4417:4219:40
2001:54 3:495:437:389:3211:2713:2115:1617:1019:05

Let’s give an example of how to use this chart. For instance, if a mother weighs 140 pounds, how long to wait to breastfeed after drinking 5 beers would be 11 hours and 47 minutes. After this time, there should no longer be any alcohol in her breast milk.

Another example is that a bottle of wine typically contains five drinks. If a 190-pound woman drank a bottle of wine, she would have to wait 11 hours and 12 minutes to safely breastfeed.

What About the “Pump and Dump” Method?

It’s always a good idea to wait at least 2 hours after drinking to breastfeed per drink. However, there’s a common misconception that pumping milk after drinking alcohol and discarding it can reduce the amount of alcohol present in breast milk. This is commonly called “pumping and dumping.”

The Lactation Network explains that this method does not work. Alcohol levels in breast milk correlate directly with blood alcohol levels. So as your BAC falls over time, so will the level of alcohol in your milk supply. The best thing you can do to keep baby healthy is limit your alcohol consumption and wait the appropriate amount of time before breastfeeding after drinking.

Breastfeeding is a unique journey for every mother. Commemorate your experience and bond with baby with a one-of-a-kind piece of breast-milk jewelry from KeepsakeMom today.

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