Can I Drink Beer While Breastfeeding?

woman drinking beer

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Many of us like to enjoy a nice, cold beer as we unwind after a long day, and may even enjoy sharing a few beers with friends from time to time. If you are a breastfeeding parent, you may be wondering if any of these activities are safe to do now that you aren’t pregnant anymore. You might question whether drinking beer will be safe for your baby.

Experts agree that drinking beer can be safe, as long as it’s done carefully. “Drinking beer in moderation is safe while breastfeeding,” says Krystyn Parks, MS, RD, IBCLC, pediatric dietitian and lactation consultant. Parks explains that alcohol does pass into breast milk, but the risks of about one drink a day pose minimal risks to babies.

Let’s take a deeper dive into drinking beer while breastfeeding, including how to do it safely, how it might affect milk supply, and other precautions to keep in mind.

Drinking Beer While Breastfeeding

As the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) explains, alcohol does pass into breast milk, so the way to play it safest is not to consume alcohol at all. However, they note, moderate amounts of alcoholic beverages are not known to pose any serious harm to babies. “Drinking alcoholic beverages is not an indication to stop breastfeeding,” the CDC states.

Moderation is the name of the game, says Jessica Madden, MD, pediatrician, neonatologist, IBCLC, and medical director at Aeroflow Breastpumps. She explains that breastfeeding parents shouldn’t consume more than one alcoholic beverage a day. For beer, Dr. Madden says that would be about one 12 oz. serving of beer that’s about 5% alcohol, or 10 proof.

In addition, Dr. Madden—along with the CDC and American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP)—recommends waiting for a period of time to nurse after you’ve consumed alcohol.

“Waiting at least two hours after consuming one drink before breastfeeding (or pumping milk to give to baby) is suggested, as alcohol can be found in breastmilk, and levels are generally highest 30 to 60 minutes after consuming alcohol,” Dr. Madden explains.

Every breastfeeding journey is different. Be sure to consult with a healthcare provider about your circumstances if you have any questions about drinking beer while breastfeeding.

Is It Safe for Baby?

The main concern with drinking alcohol is how it might affect babies. Again, reasonable amounts of alcohol should not be a problem, especially if you wait about two hours to nurse your baby. But if you drink more than that, there may be risks to your baby.

“As with consuming any kind of alcoholic beverage, exposing an infant to beer through breastmilk that is above moderate consumption (up to one drink per day) can have risks such as impairing the infant’s development, growth, and sleep patterns, in addition to increased crying, startling, and arousal, and decreased milk intake and weight gain,” explains Dr. Madden.

The other concern is the fact that alcohol, especially in large amounts, may impair your milk ejection reflex (the mechanism that allows your milk to be released from your breasts). If this is impaired, your baby may not get enough milk.

“Milk supply, on the most basic level, is supply and demand, so the less the baby is taking, the less the parent will be making,” Parks explains. However, Parks says that it’s unlikely having one alcoholic beverage will have lasting effects on your milk ejection reflex.

Benefits of Drinking Beer While Breastfeeding

Besides the fact that many of us enjoy an occasional beer, there are no advantages to consuming it if you are nursing. “In general, there are no overall health benefits to drinking beer while breastfeeding,” says Dr. Madden.

Can Beer Increase Your Milk Supply?

A question that many parents have is if beer might be good for milk supply. You’ve probably heard people say that some of the ingredients in beer may have this effect.

“Anecdotally, barley and hops are thought to boost milk supply,” says Parks. But there is no research to back this up. And as Parks points out, alcohol can have the opposite effect and can inhibit your milk ejection reflex, resulting in your baby taking in less milk.

“For the most part, there is very limited research on galactagogues,” Parks points out. “Nothing will boost milk supply more than removal of milk.”

Still, while anecdotal, some parents swear by the power of beer to increase supply. In this case, Parks points out that you can get the safe effects from non-alcoholic beer, which also contains barley and hops.

Safety Precautions

You should be able to enjoy a beer from time to time, but it’s very important that you do it safely. Whatever you do, you should be in touch with your pediatrician before drinking alcohol while breastfeeding. If you have a medically vulnerable baby or a premature baby, there may be different precautions you need to take.

Here are some tips for drinking beer safely while breastfeeding.

Drink in Moderation

The only way to safely drink alcohol while breastfeeding is to do so in moderation. The general rule is that it’s safe to drink the equivalent of one alcoholic drink. If you end up drinking more than that, it’s advised that you refrain from breastfeeding.

Usually, this will mean waiting until you are sober, which indicates that the alcohol level in your body is low enough so that it won’t affect your milk. “Everyone's alcohol tolerance will be different,” says Parks. “A general rule of thumb is that if you are safe to drive, you are safe to feed your baby.”

Wait to Breastfeed

If you decide to have a beer with dinner, or while out with your friends, it’s best to wait two hours before you breastfeed again, so that the majority of the alcohol clears your system. You can breastfeed your baby right before having your beer, drink the beer, and then resume breastfeeding two hours after that.

You might be wondering if it ever makes sense to “pump and dump.” This is rarely necessary, says Dr. Madden. “For the most part, it's not necessary to pump and dump, unless the parent gets very intoxicated,” she says.

As the AAP points out, pumping your milk out will not reduce the amount of alcohol in your milk at a faster rate. However, if you need to wait to breastfeed for several hours as you wait for the alcohol to clear your system, you might need to pump to reduce engorgement.

Have Someone Available to Help Care for Your Baby

Whether you are breastfeeding or not, being intoxicated may make it difficult to adequately care for your baby. “A parent should be mindful of whether or not they can safely care for their infant,” says Dr. Madden.

She suggests you have an alternative caregiver lined up before you engage in any kind of drinking. The AAP notes that this is especially important if you become heavily intoxicated.

A Word From Verywell

There are some drugs, medications, and beverages that are best to avoid while breastfeeding, but thankfully beer is not one of them. It’s generally fine to pop open a cold beer and enjoy it with a friend or two. Still, it’s very important that you limit the number of beers you drink to one at a time. It’s also smart to wait about two hours before resuming breastfeeding.

As with everything, all babies and parents are different, so you should consult with your pediatrician before consuming beer while breastfeeding your little one.

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4 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. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Alcohol and Breastfeeding.

  2. American Academy of Pediatrics. Alcohol & Breast Milk.

  3. Koletzko B, Lehner F. Beer and Breastfeeding. Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology. 2002;478. doi:10.1007/0-306-46830-1_2

  4. Mennella J. Alcohol's effect on lactation. Alcohol Research & Health. 2001;25(3):230-234.

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