From our friends at NAPS:
Breastfeeding is hard enough without the misery of dumping that liquid gold down the sink because it might have alcohol in it. So let’s answer, once and for all, the question: “Can I drink while breastfeeding?”
The short answer is YES.
The longer answer, which includes answers to some of the most common questions we get asked, is as follows….
How much alcohol will get into my breast milk from one drink?
Drinking alcohol in small amounts (small amounts meaning about 1 alcoholic beverage a day) while breastfeeding is considered safe. Studies indicate that the amount of alcohol that enters your breast milk is actually fairly low, even after more than one drink, because it mimics the blood alcohol level found in your bloodstream.
So, if there’s almost no alcohol in my milk, what’s the problem?
While the actual amount of alcohol in your system is very low, whether you have one drink or 4 drinks in a short period of time, the biggest concern with drinking while you have a newborn is becoming impaired while caring for them. You don’t want to drink too much and fall asleep on the couch or in bed while holding the baby. This is the larger concern with drinking while parenting (not even breastfeeding!) and no so much about the volume of alcohol in your breastmilk. So if you are going to have more than one drink, or you feel impaired in anyway after 1 or more drinks, then just make sure you have a sober person there to help with the baby.
If I pump and dump, will I make new milk that doesn’t have alcohol in it?
No. The milk your body creates to replace it will still have alcohol in it, because your blood alcohol level and the level of alcohol in your breastmilk mimic one another. So just like no longer feeling the impairments caused by alcohol takes time because the alcohol needs to leave your bloodstream, the same is true for breastmilk. It just takes time. The recommendation is to wait two hours after each serving of alcohol before breastfeeding. So if you have one drink, wait 2 hours until you feed your baby. In short, there is no benefit to pumping and dumping. The only time you may find you need to do this is if you’ve decided to wait to breastfeed due to having multiple drinks, and you are feeling engorged and need to pump for comfort.
A final note on using your best judgment….
It’s always a good idea to listen to your body, and use your best judgment. Meaning, if you milk (no pun intended) a glass of wine over an hour and feel fine, you can just breastfeed your baby when they are hungry again whether it’s an hour after you finish the glass or 2 hours later. You don’t have to obsess over when to start the clock; when you started drinking the glass of wine vs. when you finished the glass of wine in a scenario like this. The same is true for using your best judgment for the opposite. Meaning, if you’re going to be drinking quite a bit, it’s worth having a sober person to help with the baby, and an alternate way to feed your baby, either previously expressed breastmilk or some formula.
If you’re looking for more evidence-based, judgment-free support like this related to breastfeeding, pumping, formula or combo feeding (or just parenting in general) NAPS does both in person (for MA residents only) and virtual consultations.
About the Author
Emily Silver is a Family Nurse Practitioner and International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC). She is also a co-founder of NAPS. NAPS supports women throughout pregnancy and up through early childhood with an in-depth online learning platform, Nurture by NAPS, a wide array of virtual classes and consultations and even in-home lactation and nursing care.