Alcohol while Breastfeeding: Finding and Managing the Right Balance

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August 2, 2023

Breastfeeding has never been an easy journey for mothers. It comes with positive selflessness and some sacrifices of your social and personal preferences. If you are breastfeeding, you may wonder whether you can have a drink without harming your baby?

To find it out, firstly you should know that alcohol can pass on to your baby through your breast milk when you feed them. Hence, the safest choice for mothers who breastfeed is to avoid alcohol.

However, occasionally moderate alcohol consumption of around 1 unit per day is unlikely to harm your baby if you wait at least 2-3 hours after drinking to feed your baby again.

But, before you decide about your consumption of alcohol, be very thoughtful about how much to drink and when to breastfeed so that it does not harm both of you.

Alcohol in Breast milk

Alcohol can flow freely from your bloodstream to your breast milk. The alcohol levels in your bloodstream are generally highest during 30-60 minutes of alcohol consumption.

Moderate consumption of around one drink can be detected in your breast milk for about 2-3 hours. This time duration of detection changes proportionately to the increase in alcohol consumption. For example, if you consume two drinks, it can be traced in your breast milk for about 4-5 hours, and in the case of 3 drinks, it can be traced for about 6-8 hours, and so on.

Well, several factors are important in tracing the level and duration of the effect of alcohol in your breast milk like :

⦁ Amount of alcohol you consumed

⦁ Rate of consumption as in how quickly it is consumed

⦁ Whether it is consumed with any meal or no

⦁ Your weight

⦁ How fast your body metabolizes the alcohol

If you consume alcohol in excess ( for about more than 1 drink per day), it can affect your ability to nurse and care for your baby properly. Some studies have also shown that excess consumption of alcohol can affect your prolactin and oxytocin hormones responsible for milk production, thereby reducing your milk supply.

Your baby under the influence of excessively consumed alcohol by you might develop problems like:

⦁ Disrupted sleep pattern

⦁ Poor weight gain

⦁ Problems in early growth and development

⦁ Pumping and dumping the breast milk

You might think that pumping and dumping your breast milk after alcohol consumption can reduce or eliminate the amount of alcohol in your breast milk, but this is not possible and feasible. The alcohol level in your breast milk will decrease corresponding to the fall in the alcohol level in your bloodstream.So, pumping and dumping the breast milk will not help in eliminating it early from your body.

However, you may try expressing and discarding your breast milk to :

⦁ Maintain your milk expression schedule

⦁ Avoid any discomfort or problem like breast engorgement.

If you are about to have a drink, the best thing you can do is express your milk before consuming alcohol so that you can feed your baby with the expressed milk while the effect of alcohol in your breast milk slows down.

Since breast milk is the best way to nourish your baby, it is always important to find and manage the right balance between enjoying a drink and providing the best nutrition to your baby.

You can try limiting the amount and frequency of alcohol intake, pumping, and dumping wherever necessary and monitoring any change in the baby’s behaviour and health. This way, you can manage both breastfeeding and alcohol safely and responsibly.

Stay updated with us to gain more insights on different aspects related to your health.

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