Previously women were actually told that drinking alcohol while breastfeeding was fine, and sometimes encouraged. Discussions and recommendations were based off of alcohol being beneficial. Mother’s were told that it would help you relax, promote MER, increase supply, and help both mother and baby sleep better. Then this went downhill, and a lot of mothers were being told they couldn’t drink while breastfeeding. Now we are being told its okay in moderation. So what on earth should you do?!
In reality you do not have to completely abstain from drinking any alcohol while on your breastfeeding journey. I’m going to give you a brief evidence based piece on this.
It has been shown that to some extent alcohol can actually inhibit lactation. It has been shown that alcohol can inhibit oxytocin, which probably can explain the reduction in milk. For a normal breastfeeding mother, who has the occasional drink, potentially having their oxytocin inhibited for a brief period is most likely not going to cause any harm.
Alcohol passes freely into breast milk just about the same as the alcohol concentration would be in your blood. Some studies show it is a bit higher in your blood, some show it is higher in your milk. The highest concentrations have about an average of 30-60 minutes after drinking, and then the concentration looks to decline at about the same rate as your blood concentration level. Alcohol is never “trapped” inside your breasts. Pumping and dumping doesn’t solve a thing, unless you are engorged and just need to get it out. I highly suggest nursing your child right before to help with that throughout the few hours you will not be nursing. As with your blood concentration, there are a few factors that determine just how fast it will exit your system, like your weight.
So in conclusion, the benefits of you breastfeeding are going to outweigh the occasional drink or two as long as you practice safe drinking. Think of it as driving; if you shouldn’t drive, you shouldn’t breastfeed.
Motherisk is an amazing resource for evidence based information, and they have an awesome nomogram you could use to calculate around how long you should wait after consuming an alcoholic beverage, before resuming nursing! The link to download that is below.
Happy New Year!
- Michelle Mansker
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awton ME. Alcohol in breast milk. Aust N Z J Obstet Gynaecol 1985;25:71–3.