Drinking While Breastfeeding: What's Okay, What's Not?

What Nursing Moms Need to Know if They're Considering Drinking Alcohol

A woman with a baby and a glass of wine
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Conflicting advice about drinking while breastfeeding can leave even the most well-informed nursing mom with a host of questions. Do you have to stave off drinking completely? Is it okay to breastfeed right after a glass of wine? Should you pump and dump? Here are some must-know answers if you're considering drinking while breastfeeding.

How Long Does It Take for Alcohol to Get into Your Milk?

It takes about half an hour before the alcohol starts to get into your milk, so if you have eaten recently, having a drink at home just before breastfeeding would probably be safe. Of course, a weaker drink would mean less alcohol in your system, but as long as the alcohol is in your blood, it's also in your milk. Just make sure you aren't feeling the effects of the drink before you nurse. If you are impaired in any way by the alcohol, this means that it's in your milk and will affect your baby.

How Long Does Alcohol Remain in Your Breastmilk?

You will have alcohol in your milk as long as you have it in your blood, so you should follow the same rule of thumb as you would for deciding if it is safe to drive after drinking. Wait two to three hours after a drink to be safe, longer if you have had more than one drink.

How Does Pumping and Dumping Work?

Alcohol in your milk works the same as it does in your blood. Once the alcohol is out of your blood, it's also out of your milk. So only pump if you are going to miss a couple of nursings and want to keep up your supply, or to relieve any engorgement you might have while you're away from your baby. You can also pump ​before you drink if you want to have some milk on hand to feed your baby at the next feeding.

How Does Alcohol Affect Your Baby?

Another thing that you should watch out for, according to La Leche League International, is your baby's age. A 2-month-old baby, for example, has very limited liver function and would process alcohol at about half the rate of an adult. This means that even a small amount of alcohol could tax the baby's liver. At around 3 months of age, however, an infant would process alcohol more quickly, more similar to an adult's liver.

All that said, know that as long as you aren't sucking down Jell-O shots and then nursing your baby, the occasional beer with your pizza or glass of wine with your bubble bath doesn't have to be avoided like the plague.

However, nursing while you are drunk or frequently nursing when you've been drinking are problems. But, according to experts like Dr. Jack Newman, author of "The Ultimate Breastfeeding Book of Answers," "Reasonable alcohol intake should not be discouraged at all ... Prohibiting alcohol is another way we make life unnecessarily restrictive for nursing mothers."

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