By Wendy Colson RN, IBCLC, RLC
You’ve spent a long 9 months growing a beautiful baby and now you are wondering- is it safe for me to drink alcohol while breastfeeding?
You do not have to "pump and dump" (a terrible expression) afterwards and you do not have to wait a certain time after your more recent drink in order to restart breastfeeding. I’ve got the answers to your most common questions about breastfeeding and alcohol below so you can enjoy your glass of chardonnay (or spicy margarita, whatever you fancy!) guilt free.
5 Common Questions about Breastfeeding and Alcohol:
How long do you have to wait to breastfeed after drinking alcohol and how many drinks are safe?
If you feel safe to drive, then breastfeed as usual. This applies to exclusive pumpers also. The best way to determine if it is safe to breastfeed is based on how you feel- this is because the amount of alcohol in your breastmilk is similar to the amount of alcohol left in your bloodstream. Feeling tipsy and baby is content? Just wait until you feel like yourself again and breastfeed as usual.
Do you have to pump and dump after drinking?
Pumping does not speed the removal of milk alcohol levels, it is not necessary for “just tipsy.” While pumping and dumping is outdated thinking since milk isn’t “trapped”, it can be very helpful to assure you do not accidentally drop your milk supply from fuller/engorged breasts caused from extended baby separation. If you feel safe to drive while pumping, then save your milk to use later. Rationale: Fuller breast trigger a Feedback Inhibitor of Lactation (FIL), pronounced Phil. When FIL sets in he slows down milk production and it is not easy to reverse in sensitive milk-making moms. Fuller breasts also decrease prolactin receptors, the hormone responsible for making milk. If this happens, try BOOBIE* Bars.
How much alcohol actually gets into breastmilk?
“The amount of alcohol that gets into the milk is tiny and will not hurt the baby.” says world-renowned lactation leader, Dr. Jack Newman. In fact, our leading researchers, such as Dr. Thomas Hale, Ph. D and even the Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), give moms their blessing if they want to partake in a cocktail while breastfeeding. That is because they have found the amount of alcohol which reaches breastmilk to be so minuscule (hundredths of a percent, (i.e. 0.01-0.06).
Does alcohol impact milk supply?
Some studies have shown that alcohol use can impact milk production- since alcohol can impact the level of oxytocin produced this can in turn impact supply. While the immediate effects of one glass of wine, cocktail, etc. only last while it is in your system, the impact of alcohol on your milk supply only seems to surface when there is more frequent use of alcohol.
Can I slow down the impacts of alcohol so I can breastfeed my baby?
Yes, you can- just remember to eat, eat, eat! Hit that dip bowl again, Mama and never drink on an empty stomach. Rationale: An alcoholic drink consumed with food decreases absorption allowing you to hopefully prevent you ever feeling unsafe to drive and allows you to return to feeding your baby at the breast sooner since the amount in your blood is lower.