You may be wondering how to soak in all of the festivities that may include alcohol. This can be a wedding you will be attending, or a day with burgers on the grill and ice cream melting by the second.. I know you don’t want to be miss out on the fun! There seems to be a lot of information (both factual and opinionated) about breastfeeding and drinking, so let’s talk about the safe way a breastfeeding mom can celebrate.
You’re Not The Only One Who Worries About This…
As a breastfeeding mom (now and in the past), I have had times where I am enjoying a family gathering with amazing food, adult conversation (you know, the kind us moms don’t get that often!), and alcohol.
I always felt that drinking alcohol while breastfeeding was inappropriate, irresponsible, and selfish. Why would I put my baby at risk and in harm’s way for me to take the edge off for 2-3 hours? I never felt comfortable nor had the extra energy to pump and dump. I was very disciplined with myself.
However, I started to see studies pop up about breastfeeding and drinking alcohol… and how little actually passed into your breastmilk! I finally felt like it was safe to consume alcohol on occasion.
The first time I had a drink while breastfeeding, my youngest was 17 months old. I found that one drink was the perfect amount, felt great, and had zero symptoms or effects!
If you’ve been worried about drinking while breastfeeding and want to know if it’s possible to do so safely, keep reading!
Recommendations for Breastfeeding and Drinking
The CDC explains that “not drinking alcohol is the safest option for breastfeeding mothers.” But of course, we know this! So let’s explore some options to safely consume alcohol!
A moderate amount of consumption is the ideal way to approach breastfeeding and drinking alcohol. This means that you should drink no more than one standard drink per day. Here are some other factors to consider:
- A “standard drink” can vary depending on the alcohol content of the beverage, so the total amount of alcohol you should consume is 14 grams of pure alcohol.
- What each person considers to be a “standard drink” may differ. According to the La Leche League, a “standard” drink would be 12 oz. of beer, 5 oz. of wine, or 1.5 oz. of distilled spirits.
- Take your weight into consideration, as this affects alcohol metabolization.
- Think about the age of your newborn. The younger the child, the more they can be put at risk by alcohol in your breastmilk
- Wait at least two hours after drinking (or until the alcohol leaves your system) before breastfeeding. Keep in mind, alcohol does not stay in your breast milk after it leaves your bloodstream, so it is perfectly safe to breastfeed once it does!
What is “Pumping and Dumping?”
The phrase “pumping and dumping” refers to the practice of pumping breastmilk after drinking and then dumping it. Many women believe this will get rid of the alcohol in their system, but that’s actually not the case!
If you need to pump in order to stick to your normal feeding schedule, you definitely can! Kelly Mom explains that, although it isn’t necessary to pump and dump, it is good practice to pump as often as your baby would normally nurse to keep up your supply.
While very small amounts of alcohol in your system have little effect on your breastmilk, It’s always good to use caution! Kelly Mom says if you are sober enough to drive then you should be sober enough to nurse. Just make sure to dispose of the milk and don’t give it to your baby if there is an excessive amount of alcohol in your system.
But if you’re looking for another way to use the milk you’ve pumped, a breastmilk lather is the perfect option! Lathers turn your breastmilk into a useful keepsake that has many benefits for your skin… and having some alcohol in the milk is completely safe! The process of creating a lather will break up the alcohol molecule.
Does Drinking Beer Increase Your Milk Supply?
Another myth that you may have heard is that drinking beer or having a glass of wine can increase your milk supply… But in reality, it actually decreases it!
Alcohol can mess with your hormone levels (prolactin and oxytocin), leading to a reduction in your milk supply. It might also seem like your baby wants to nurse more after you drink alcohol, but that is because they aren’t getting as much milk! As long as you are only moderately consuming, these effects will be present temporarily and shouldn’t cause long-term supply issues.
Effects of Breastfeeding and Drinking for Mom and Baby
Alcohol can have negative effects on both mom and baby, so it’s best to use caution when drinking.
Risks for Mom
For example, here are a few negative effects for mom:
- Decreased milk production (Comtemporary OBGYN shared that there is a 20% dip in supply in the first four hours after drinking)
- Interferes with the milk ejection reflex
- Changes in breastmilk taste
- Being less aware of what your baby needs (if excessively drinking)
If you end up drinking more than you planned and your baby is ready for a feed, it’s always a safer route to use stored frozen breastmilk (if you have any!) or formula while you wait for the alcohol to leave your system.
Risks for Baby
Although a moderate amount of alcohol is safe, there are a few common effects on babies. These may include:
- Having trouble sleeping
- Increased REM sleep
Risks of High Intoxication Levels
If you choose to drink excessive amounts of alcohol, there are increased risks.
Contemporary OBGYN shared multiple studies that looked at the long-term effects on babies. One of these studies by Growing Up in Australia studied children every two years to see the continued effect of alcohol in breastmilk, long after they finished breastfeeding. This study found “reductions in abstract reasoning at ages 6 to 7 years in children.”
Some additional long-term effects include:
- Decreased milk intake
- Developmental problems
- Immune issues
Plan Ahead and Practice Safe Drinking
Breastfeeding doesn’t have to ruin all of your fun this summer! It’s possible to find other activities and ways to enjoy your vacation time if you don’t want to drink while breastfeeding. But if you do decide to have a drink, make sure you follow the safety guidelines to protect you and your baby. Nurse or pump before you drink so there is more time in between sessions, stick to one drink, and listen to your body.
And if you have any questions about breastfeeding and drinking or other breastfeeding topics, I would love to answer them! I offer lactation services to help you with any questions, tips, advice, or guidance you may need when it comes to breastfeeding.
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