Drinking Alcohol, Breastfeeding, and Breast Milk Supply

Wine glasses with women in the background
Is it safe to have a glass of wine if you're breastfeeding?.

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It can be confusing to know if it's advisable to drink while breastfeeding. In many cultures, beer and wine are offered to breastfeeding mothers to help them increase their breast milk supply and bring about a better let-down of breast milk. Can drinking alcohol when you're breastfeeding really help you make more breast milk? And, more importantly, is it safe?

Does Beer or Wine Increase Milk Supply?

Beer can raise the level of prolactin, a hormone responsible for milk production. Beer also contains barley and hops, which may also help to an increase in supply of breast milk after drinking beer. The alcohol itself will not help you to make more breast milk.

The alcohol in beer and wine may also get you feeling a little relaxed, which may aid in the let-down of your breast milk. But, it still won't cause an increase in the amount of breast milk that you produce. Non-alcoholic beer containing barley and hops can have the same effect without the dangerous side effects of alcohol.

How Alcohol Affects Breastfeeding

Indulging in more than just an occasional drink can even do the opposite of what you're trying to do and cause a decrease in your breast milk supply. It can also have a negative effect on your let-down reflex making it harder for your milk to flow out of your breasts.

And, since the alcohol will enter your breast milk, it can change the smell and taste of your breast milk. All of these issues can make breastfeeding more difficult and cause your child to take less milk during a feeding, breastfeed less often, or even refuse to breastfeed.

An occasional alcoholic beverage is believed to be safe for breastfeeding mothers. However, the regular or heavy use of alcohol is not. 

Drinking an excessive amount of alcohol while breastfeeding can be dangerous for your child. Studies published in 2001 showed that babies do not sleep as well when they receive breast milk containing alcohol.

How to Drink Responsibly While Breastfeeding

Don't drink alcohol before you plan on breastfeeding or pumping your breast milk. The amount of alcohol that reaches your child will be much less if you have your drink immediately after you pump or nurse your baby, instead of before.

Wait two or more hours after you have one drink of alcohol before you breastfeed or pump. The amount of alcohol in your breast milk will depend on how much you've had to drink and how much you weigh. The more you drink and the less you weigh, the longer it will take the alcohol to leave your body.

In general, if you have more than one drink, wait at least two hours per drink before breastfeeding again. The level of alcohol in your breast milk will be much less, the longer you put off breastfeeding.

One drink is equal to 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 1.5 ounces of hard liquor.

Plan Ahead

When you know you will be drinking, you can collect and store your breast milk ahead of time. This way your child can have breast milk while you are waiting for the alcohol to leave your body.

If you are going out to a special event and plan to drink more than you normally would, you may have to pump to relieve the pressure in your breasts and prevent breast engorgement while you wait until the alcohol leaves your body. Alcohol remains in your breast milk for as long as it stays in your blood.

If you pump before you are sober, that milk will contain alcohol and should be discarded. Do not give that batch of breast milk to your baby. Once you have waited at least two hours per drink, you should be able to resume breastfeeding or save any milk you pump.

Take Extra Precautions

It's important to make sure that there is someone who is not drinking to care for your baby if you do decide to have a drink (or more). This person can act as a designated driver if you're out or help carry the baby if you are home.

You should never place your baby in your bed to sleep with you if you have had any alcohol. It can be very dangerous and is not worth the risk.

Safe Ways to Increase Milk Supply 

If you would like to make more breast milk, there are many other, safer ways to boost your supply. First, make sure you are eating enough overall and staying hydrated. You can try to increase your breast milk supply naturally and add some milk-making foods to your diet.

You could also try using a nursing tea or some of the common breastfeeding herbs that have been used by nursing mothers for centuries to help increase their breast milk production such as fenugreek, fennel or blessed thistle.

Talk to Your Doctor

You should always talk to your doctor and your baby's doctor if you have any concerns or questions about your supply of breast milk and whether or not your child is getting enough breast milk. Once you figure out a plan that you think works for your family, discuss it with your doctor.

Your healthcare provider can also answer your questions about the safety of drinking alcohol while you're breastfeeding, and how it can affect you, your baby, and your breast milk supply. A lactation consultant or a local La Leche group are other great resources when you need assistance.

5 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. U.S. National Library of Medicine. LactMed: alcohol. ToxNet.

  2. Mennella J. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Alcohol’s Effect on Lactation.

  3. Mennella JA, Garcia-Gomez PL. Sleep disturbances after acute exposure to alcohol in mothers' milkAlcohol. 2001;25(3):153–158.

  4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Is it safe for mothers to breastfeed their infant if they have consumed alcohol?

  5. Sim TF, Hattingh HL, Sherriff J, Tee LB. The Use, Perceived Effectiveness and Safety of Herbal Galactagogues During Breastfeeding: A Qualitative StudyInt J Environ Res Public Health. 2015;12(9):11050–11071. doi:10.3390/ijerph120911050

Additional Reading
  • Lawrence, Ruth A., MD, Lawrence, Robert M., MD. Breastfeeding A Guide For The Medical Profession Eighth Edition. Elsevier Health Sciences. 2015.

By Donna Murray, RN, BSN
Donna Murray, RN, BSN has a Bachelor of Science in Nursing from Rutgers University and is a current member of Sigma Theta Tau, the Honor Society of Nursing.