The Truth About Drinking Alcohol While Breastfeeding

The Breast is yet to come - Breastfeeding and Drinking Alcohol 

Estimated read time: 10 minutes

We know you're wondering!

There’s nothing like a delicious glass of your favorite wine to help you relax after a long and challenging day, am I right? 

We all know that you shouldn’t drink alcohol while you’re pregnant, but what are the rules for drinking alcohol while you’re breastfeeding?

Well, the message is less precise and clear, that’s for sure. While some sources say no amount of alcohol is safe while nursing, other sources are much more lenient. One thing’s for sure. When it comes to drinking alcohol while breastfeeding, we women have received a bunch of mixed messages on the topic – not to mention a lot of shaming if we do decide to indulge once in a while.

In this article, we’re going to get down and dirty about alcohol and breastfeeding, including the myths and truths, and everything else you need to know. 

Alcohol and breastfeeding myths and truths

The area is pretty gray as there haven’t been enough studies to give the full picture. While drinking alcohol while breastfeeding isn’t illegal, experts say large or excessive amounts of alcohol can be harmful to a breastfed baby. 

OK, so what about small amounts? Is that safe? And how much is too much? Oh, and how do you know how long to wait to breastfeed after drinking alcohol?

Let’s take a look at some of the myths and truths sounding alcohol and breastfeeding.

Truth: Less than 2% of the alcohol you consume reaches your milk

The alcohol you consume peaks in your breast milk about 30-60 minutes after you drink it (but this tends to vary from person to person), and alcohol doesn’t accumulate in your breast milk. In fact, when alcohol enters your milk, it’s broken down by your amazing body and pulled away from your milk. 

The amount of alcohol that passes into breast milk is a teeny fraction of that which you consume and it doesn’t accumulate over time. And don’t confuse the alcohol content in your milk with that in your baby’s bloodstream. Even if you’ve downed a few Cosmos, and your blood alcohol level is at 0.8%, it doesn’t mean your baby’s will be at the same level too. She’s getting a fraction of the amount, which would have minimal impact. 

Myth: You should never drink alcohol while breastfeeding

Wrong! While it is in no way encouraged to drink heavily while breastfeeding, research shows that the occasional light drink (one standard drink a day) won’t harm you or your little munchkin. Even medical specialists state that one or two units once or twice a week is totally fine.

Truth: The age of your baby is a factor

Of course, you should always keep in mind the age of your baby. If you have a little one less than three months old, you should be extra careful about drinking alcohol, as your baby’s brain is still developing and is super vulnerable. 

Myth: It can take three days or more for alcohol to leave your milk

Uh-uh. Not true. The alcohol you drink isn’t stored in your magic milk. Just like your blood alcohol levels drop, so do the alcohol levels in your breast milk. And it doesn’t take three days! 

Truth: How long does alcohol stay in breast milk?

There are a ton of incredible ingredients in your breast milk, and what you eat and drink become a part of them. So, when you have a glass of wine or a shot of vodka, how much alcohol winds up in your milk, and how long does alcohol stay in breast milk?

There isn’t one simple answer here, as it depends on a lot of factors including how much you drank, how much food you ate while drinking, your weight, and body fat percentage (to name a few). On average, blood alcohol levels are at their highest within an hour after drinking and go down again up to three hours after drinking one alcoholic beverage.

Myth: My baby will sleep better if I have alcohol in my breast milk

Yikes! This one is a total myth…although we get why some people might think this. Think about how relaxed and sleepy you can get after a few, so doesn’t it make sense that your baby will feel the same? Nope!

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Truth: Alcohol can negatively impact your baby’s sleep

There have been no studies that show improvement in sleep in babies if they drink breast milk containing alcohol. In fact, there was research done in 1998 that actually showed the opposite, and that sleep was negatively impacted when consuming breast milk with traces of alcohol in it. That’s because while alcohol can make you feel sleepy at first, the sleep that follows is shallow and less restorative.

Truth: You might lactate less after having a few drinks

Some studies have shown that you can experience shorter feeding periods when you’ve had a few drinks (more than two a day). This could be because alcohol can inhibit the role of oxytocin (one of the hormones that release milk), which results in a decreased milk release. 

Should I pump and dump?

We’ve all heard of pumping and dumping, but what are the pump and dump breastfeeding rules?  

Here’s the thing. From everything we know about drinking alcohol while breastfeeding, the truth is, if you’re only drinking moderately and occasionally, then you don’t need to pump and dump. 

While alcohol does get into breast milk, it doesn’t get trapped there. Your body breaks down the alcohol molecules within an hour or two of one drink. This means the best time to breastfeed is an hour or two after you’ve had a drink. There’s no need to pump and dump out that liquid gold

Because alcohol doesn’t stay in your system, it leaves your blood steam at a rate of about one unit per hour, it, therefore, leaves your milk in this time too. All your body needs is time to metabolize the alcohol so there’s no more left in your blood or breast milk.

If you know you’re heading out for a BIG night on the town and want to let your hair down, then a good idea is to pump before going out so you have enough expressed milk to feed your baby…while you recover! 

Of course, if you drink heavily to the extent that you’re feeling more than a little tipsy then you should wait until you’re completely sober before nursing and looking after your little one again.

The most important thing to consider is that alcohol can make you less aware of your baby’s needs. It can also impact your judgment and reaction time. So, if you do plan on enjoying a glass or two, make sure there is a responsible, sober adult with you and your little one at all times.

Cheers mama!

The bottom line is alcohol consumed occasionally in low or moderate amounts is highly unlikely to harm your baby.

So, Tits Up mama! If you want to enjoy a couple of glasses of vino a week or celebrate a night out, then go for it. As long as you don’t overindulge and practice safe sleeping (never co-sleep if you’ve had a few), then there is no reason why you can’t enjoy your favorite tipples moderately. 

 

At Titty City Design, we believe that every boobie is beautiful, and that should be celebrated. We are a female-owned and operated, small business here to spread self-love and body positivity with our line of boob apparel, boob accessories, and boob-themed decor and products for the home. A portion of our proceeds goes to help support postpartum people and breast cancer patients.

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