You’re a new mom! It’s time to celebrate! But can that celebration involve a glass of champagne or bottle of beer if you are breastfeeding your baby?
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, occasional alcoholic drinks are fine when you’re a breastfeeding mom. The AAP cautions that moms should limit themselves to a single serving and shouldn’t breastfeed for 2 hours after drinking in order to minimize baby’s exposure through breastmilk.
Alcohol passes in and out of your breastmilk the same way it does in your bloodstream. If you, therefore, aren’t feeling the effects of the alcohol, there is likely very little in your breastmilk. With one serving, your blood alcohol level (therefore your breastmilk alcohol level) will peak around 30 to 60 minutes afterwards. If you are drinking with a meal or snack, it will take about 60 to 90 minutes to peak. If you have more than one drink, the higher blood alcohol level will take longer to be eliminated from your body. ‘Pumping and dumping’ and drinking lots of water or coffee will not speed up the process of eliminating milk from your body. Only the passage of time can do that. How long it will take you to digest the alcohol depends on several factors: your weight, whether or not you are eating with the beverage, and how many servings you’ve had to drink.
In addition to how your own physiology works, keep in mind that your baby has a very immature liver. Once he is exposed to alcohol through breastmilk, it takes longer for him to get it out of his system. Around age 3 months, your baby’s liver is more mature – so his age makes a difference, too.
The effects on your baby include sleepiness and difficulty rousing to feed, both of which can impact your milk supply. In addition, some babies don’t like the flavor of mom’s milk after mom has had an alcoholic beverage, which leads to less nursing. Babies also tend to take less milk even when they don’t refuse to nurse – experts think this is due to an inhibited let-down reflex when mom has had alcohol to drink.
You may have heard that beer can help you make more milk, can increase the caloric content of your milk, or can help with let-down. No evidence supports these claims. In fact, some studies show just the opposite – drinking alcohol can change your prolactin and oxytocin production, the two main hormones needed for making milk. Author Hilary Jacobson says this old wives’ tale may have had a start in actual truth. Beers that moms historically drank were made differently and had a higher content of lactogenic ingredients than today’s beverages.
If you do decide to enjoy an alcoholic beverage, try to nurse your baby right before. Then by the time he’s ready to nurse again a couple of hours later most of the alcohol will be gone from your milk. If you’re worried that he may want to nurse sooner, take heart. Researchers have calculated that the amount of alcohol a breastfeeding baby would get even at the peak level in mom’s blood (and milk) is only about 0.005% of the maternal dose.
If you’re still hesitant, you might want to consider low alcohol or non-alcoholic alternatives while you’re a breastfeeding mom, or even just diluting your beverage with carbonated or flavoured water. Limit yourself to a single drink, sip slowly and eat something with it. There’s no reason to feel restricted just because you’re breastfeeding. Taking simple precautions will limit your baby’s exposure to alcohol while you can still enjoy being an adult.
Eidelman, A. I., Schanler, R. J., Johnston, M., Landers, S., Noble, L., Szucs, K., & Viehmann, L. (2012). Breastfeeding and the use of human milk. Pediatrics, 129(3), e827-e841.
Ho, E., Collantes, A., Kapur, B. M., Moretti, M., & Koren, G. (2000). Alcohol and breast feeding: calculation of time to zero level in milk. Biology of the Neonate, 80(3), 219-222.
Jacobson, H. (2011, Oct 13). Beer as a Galactagogue – A Brief History. Accessed online at http://lactogenicdiet.blogspot.com/2011/10/beer-as-galactagogue-brief-history.html