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Breastfeeding and Drinking Alcohol

Breastfeeding-and-Drinking-Alcohol
Breastfeeding and drinking alcohol: Is pumping and dumping necessary?

This can be a really confusing topic for Mamas. There is a lot of conflicting information out there around what’s safe/what’s not when it comes to breastfeeding and drinking alcohol.

First of all, it’s OK to want to have a drink. Many of us enjoy the odd glass of wine or beer, and it’s nothing to feel guilty about. I want you to enjoy that glass of your fave. But there are a few guidelines I’m going to share with you so that you can make sure you’re enjoying it safely.

How does alcohol get into breastmilk?

When we think about breastfeeding and drinking alcohol, it’s important to know that alcohol finds its way into our breastmilk via our bloodstream.  The more we drink, the higher the amount of alcohol in our blood and, therefore, in our breastmilk too.

It’s also important to note that although alcohol is not stored in your breasts (it flows in and out), a small amount does get into your breast milk through your bloodstream (5%-6% of the weight-adjusted maternal dose).

How long does alcohol stay in breastmilk?

Alcohol levels peak in our breast milk around 30 – 60 minutes after consumption. This rapidly decreases if you don’t continue to drink.

In terms of how long alcohol may be in your milk – alcohol levels in your bloodstream will drop once your liver has metabolised the alcohol you have consumed. Generally speaking, it can still be detected in breast milk for around 2-3 hours after EACH standard drink.  Each drink will add an additional 2-3 hours to that time.

There are some factors that influence how our bodies process alcohol:

  • Food: If you’ve eaten before and while drinking, this can help to decrease alcohol absorption in your blood.
  • Hydration: Drinking water can help to avoid dehydration while flushing toxins from the body.
  • Weight: How much you weigh.
  • Metabolism: How quickly your body breaks down alcohol to get rid of it from the body.

However, no matter how much you’ve had to eat/how much water you’ve had, sticking to the 2-3 hours per standard drink guideline is the safest.

How long after drinking alcohol can I breastfeed?

As alcohol can be detected in your breastmilk for up to 2-3 hours per standard drink, then it’s best to avoid breastfeeding your baby for that time period in order to prevent any alcohol from being transferred to them via your breastmilk.

Breastfeeding and drinking alcohol: the effects on baby.

Exposure to alcohol higher than a moderate level  (up to 1 standard drink/day) does have the potential to negatively impact your baby’s growth and development. It can also impact their sleep and make them more unsettled and upset.

Younger babies are more likely to be affected. Especially babies under three months who still have an immature liver. It is recommended to try and wait til at least 12 weeks to have an alcoholic beverage because of this. Older babies on the other hand, may be able to metabolise alcohol in breast milk more quickly.

Alcohol can also impact you, Mama. If you regularly drink in excess, it can actually effect your let down and decrease your breast milk supply.

Another important consideration is how it affects your ability to care for your baby. When drinking, it’s important to have somebody sober look after your baby. Our judgement can be impaired when we are drinking. Often we aren’t as reactive as we might need to be in order to keep our babies safe.

Do I need to pump and dump?

One of the most common questions – and it’s easy to understand why. Just the thought of pouring precious breastmilk down the drain is enough to make any Mama feel uncomfortable!

I’m here to reassure you that as long as you wait the 2-3 hours per standard drink, then there is no need to pump and dump. Alcohol is not actually stored IN your breasts. It is in your blood stream. So even if you did pump and dump, this is not going to remove the alcohol from your breastmilk any quicker. This is because it still flows through your blood and into your milk for those 2-3 hours after each standard drink.

A good workaround is to pump BEFORE you start drinking. Or to wait until after a feed before drinking if baby is unlikely to need another feed over the next 2-3 hours.

Wanna know more about breastfeeding and drinking alcohol? I created this post to give you the run down!

Breastfeeding-&-Alcohol

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It’s important to note that consuming alcohol should be discussed with a healthcare provider to ensure safety and suitability for individual circumstances. This blog is general education only. For any personal based advice regarding you or your baby please seek advice from your own healthcare professional.

  1. Alcohol and breastfeeding. (2023, April 18). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/breastfeeding/breastfeeding-special-circumstances/vaccinations-medications-drugs/alcohol.html
  2. Drinking alcohol and breastfeeding - La Leche League International. (2021, March 16). La Leche League International. https://llli.org/breastfeeding-info/alcohol/
  3. Giglia, R., & Binns, C. W. (2006). Alcohol and lactation: A systematic review. Nutrition & Dietetics, 63(2), 103–116. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1747-0080.2006.00056.x
  4. Hale, T. (1998). Medications and mothers’ milk. https://ci.nii.ac.jp/ncid/BB15932851
  5. National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. (2023, July 15). Alcohol. Drugs and Lactation Database (LactMed®) - NCBI Bookshelf. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK501469/