Can I Drink Wine While Breastfeeding?

Parents with baby drinking wine

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If you have been holding off on wine through nine months of pregnancy, you may be looking forward to the day when you can once again sip a glass of red with your dinner. But if you are breastfeeding, you may be wondering if it's OK to drink wine.

Although abstaining from alcohol is always the safest option, it's generally fine to drink a limited amount of wine while breastfeeding. Alcohol does pass into breastmilk so it is best to keep an eye on how much you drink as well as when you drink.

"Just like many substances, alcohol does pass to your breastmilk, but staying under the recommended limit is not likely to have any short-term or long-term effects for you or your baby," explains Rebecca Ellison, MS, MPH, RDN, LDN, CLC, owner of The Baby Nutritionist, LLC.

Drinking Wine While Breastfeeding

You can safely drink a glass of wine per day while breastfeeding. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are no known risks to a nursing infant associated with drinking this amount.

The CDC recommends waiting at least two hours to breastfeed your baby after drinking wine. This allows your body to metabolize the alcohol. "To minimize your baby’s exposure to the alcohol, you can choose to drink right after nursing or pumping so that by the time your baby is ready to eat again, the alcohol will be mostly gone from your system and your breastmilk," notes Ellison.

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

Is It Safe for Baby?

Alcohol does pass through breastmilk, so it is important to limit your consumption to one glass per day. Drinking more than this may affect your baby's sleep and development.

Drinking large amounts of alcohol can have a negative impact on breastfeeding as well. Because it affects the letdown reflex, consuming more than a drink per day can impact milk production and may lead to unintended early weaning.

Why You Should Limit Wine While Breastfeeding

Drinking too much alcohol while nursing can be problematic for your baby's health and your breastfeeding journey. It is important to limit yourself to one drink per day and it is helpful to try to put at least two hours between the time that you drink and your next nursing session.

As previously mentioned, consuming more than one drink per day may affect your baby's sleep and impact development. It can also interfere with milk production and lead to unintentional early weaning. Lastly, being inebriated can affect your ability to properly care for an infant.

Does the "Pump and Dump" Method Actually Work?

If you do drink more than one drink, you may have heard that the "pump and dump" (pumping milk after drinking and tossing it out) can remove the alcohol from your breastmilk. This is not true.

"Elimination of alcohol from the body is not affected by pumping and dumping," Kim Langdon, MD, an obstetrician and gynecologist with over 19 years of clinical experience, explains.

Instead, it is advised to wait two hours per drink before feeding your baby. If you need to feed your baby during this time, use previously pumped milk or formula.

Safety Precautions

There are no benefits to drinking alcohol while breastfeeding, so abstaining is always a safe choice. If you do decide to drink wine while nursing, there are a few important safety precautions to keep in mind.

Baby Sleep

Drinking too much wine can impact your nursing infant's sleep. One study showed that babies slept less and woke up more frequently when their mothers drank alcohol before breastfeeding them. "Alcohol is metabolized and eliminated 50% slower in a baby compared to an adult," Dr. Langdon explains . "Infants exposed to over one drink a day [through breastmilk] have changes in sleep patterns."

Developmental Issues

There is some evidence that repeated exposure to alcohol through breastmilk affects infants' gross motor development. Reasoning skills during childhood may also be impacted if the nursing parent drinks too much alcohol before nursing their infants.

Inebriation

It can be unsafe to hold and care for your baby if you have had too much to drink. The exact amount you can drink will vary from person to person, so listen to your body.

Even that one glass of wine may make you feel a little woozy after having abstained from alcohol over nine months of pregnancy or more. "If you find yourself a little tipsy, see if your partner or another uninhibited adult can help," suggests Ellison. "It’s better to ask for help rather than trying to hold and care for your baby when it’s not safe."

Reduced Milk Supply

Excessive alcohol consumption can affect your milk supply. While you may have heard that brewer’s yeast in beer can increase milk supply, alcohol can actually decrease your milk supply if you drink too much. "There are other, more effective ways to increase your supply like nursing or pumping more frequently and adequate milk removal," notes Ellison.

Studies have shown that breastfed babies consume less milk per nursing session when their breastfeeding parent has been drinking alcohol. "Babies drink 20% less milk if there is alcohol in it," Dr. Landon points out.

A Word From Verywell

Abstaining from alcohol is the safest choice while breastfeeding, but drinking one glass of wine per day has not been shown to have an effect on a nursing infant. If you choose to drink wine while breastfeeding, stick to one glass per day and try to leave a space of at least two hours between your drink and the next nursing session.

Drinking too much wine may leave you inebriated, which could affect your ability to safely care for your infant. While one glass of wine is considered while breastfeeding, pay attention to how your body responds to alcohol. Your limits may be different after you have abstained from alcohol over the previous nine months.

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Article Sources
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  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Alcohol and breastfeeding. Updated February 2021.

  2. Alcohol's Effect on Lactation. National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

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

  4. Jenco M. Study: Drinking while breastfeeding linked with children’s reasoning deficitsAAP News. Published online August 14, 2021.