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Minimizing the Effects of Alcohol When Breastfeeding

Woman drinking wine at a meal.

Let’s assume you decide to have an alcoholic drink. I discussed alcohol and breastfeeding in a previous post, as well as discussing whether beer actually helps milk supply. There are several ways you can minimize the effects of the alcohol while breastfeeding, both on you and your baby.

Limit the number of drinks you have

Using the CDC’s definition, and presuming that there are no other contraindications, there’s probably no harm in having one or two drink(s) per day, especially if you wait the recommended amount of time before breastfeeding your baby.

Wait before nursing the baby

Ask yourself, “Do I feel able to drive a car?”

If you feel too woozy to drive a car, you’ve definitely got too much alcohol in your blood to nurse a baby. The amount of alcohol in your blood is the same as the amount of alcohol in your milk. However, don’t assume that the reverse is true. Even if you don’t feel woozy, that doesn’t necessarily indicate safety.

The body eliminates alcohol relatively quickly. Wait 2 to 3 hours before nursing your baby for each drink you have had. In other words, if you’ve had one drink, wait 2 to 3 hours, but if you’ve had 2 drinks, then wait 4 to 6 hours. And so on. More than 2 drinks while breastfeeding is discouraged.

Reconsider “pump and dump”

If you’re at a party, there are some good reasons why you might want to pump. You might not have the baby with you! But pumping and dumping does not expedite the elimination of alcohol in your milk; there’s no real benefit. If you wait the 2-3 hours per drink, there is no need to pump and dump before resuming breastfeeding.

Consider your baby’s age

Remember, this whole discussion is really about detoxification. Babies can’t detoxify alcohol as well as adults can, because they don’t have mature organs. Also, their smaller bodies make them more susceptible to the effects of alcohol.

  • Premature infants: Personally, I wouldn’t drink any alcohol if I was nursing a premature infant. They have a very limited ability to detoxify substances.
  • First 1-3 months: Young infants have very immature livers. Hence, they detoxify alcohol at about half the rate that adults do.
  • Older than 3 months: These infants have a better ability to detoxify alcohol. And, by the time the baby is 3 months old, there’s a lower likelihood that he’ll wake up hungry in a short stretch of time. Having a drink immediately after the baby goes to sleep is a way to be fairly certain that the alcohol will be cleared from your milk by the time your baby is ready to feed again.

Bottom line is that you can have a drink, or two, while breastfeeding if you take a few things into consideration, and plan ahead.

Do you know a mother who is using alcohol while breastfeeding? If so, please share this post with her!  

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