It’s been a dry old nine months on the alcohol front. Especially, shock horror, if you’ve been pregnant over Christmas, birthdays and special occasions – there’s only so much elderflower cordial one woman can take. So now that your baby is here, just what are the rules about alcohol and breastfeeding?
How much alcohol can I drink while breastfeeding?
You may have read that everything you eat or drink, your baby then vicariously ends up consuming elements of through your breastmilk. It’s true. This is not to say that you have to quit drinking alcohol point blank while breastfeeding, but it’s worth getting clued up before you start refilling your glass.
Ten tiny fingers, ten tiny toes. Your newborn has finally arrived. After enduring the feat that was labor, you’ll be keen to cheers to your Herculean performance. But before you pop that cork, it’s worth understanding how much alcohol is safe to drink if you’re breastfeeding.
So how much alcohol do medical professionals suggest you should have when breastfeeding? Welcome to the rabbit hole. With conflicting specialist advice, and new reports emerging all the time, it’s really hard to know whose guidance to follow.
In general, medical professionals recommend that once you’ve established your breastfeeding, you stick by moderate drinking guidelines. The American Academy of Paediatrics advise that for a 60kg mother you limit yourself to the equivalent of 2 shots of liquor, two small glasses of wine, or up to two beers in one sitting.
As with many aspects of parenthood, you’re going to have to make your own choices here. But, as a starting point, drinking occasionally and in moderation is a good rule of thumb. Many responsible Mums, when enjoying the odd glass go with the rule, “if you’re sober enough to drive, you’re sober enough to nurse”.
How long should I wait after drinking to breastfeed?
Let’s use a hypothetical small glass of wine to help paint this picture. When you begin drinking, the alcohol present in the wine passes from your bloodstream into your milk. The concentration in your blood will be exactly the same as the concentration in your milk.
It then takes an average one to two hours to process this single glass of wine, and for all traces of alcohol leave your system. After drinking, the alcohol level in your breastmilk will peak at 30-45 minutes after you’ve consumed it.
Babies’ organs are far less developed than ours, so experts agree that they shouldn’t be exposed to any alcohol in breastmilk before three months. Check out our chart to see how long to wait until your bloodstream is completely free of alcohol after drinking.
Here’s a handy chart to show you how long it takes units of alcohol to completely leave your bloodstream*:
1 standard drink = 2 hours
2 standard drinks = 4 hours
3 standard drinks = 6 hours
4 standard drinks = 8 hours
5 standard drinks = 10 hours
*Factors such as your weight, height and speed of consumption will affect these figures.
How to manage special occasions
A big felt-tip ring has been drawn around this date on your calendar for months, and whether it’s a wedding or a big milestone party, chances are there’s going to be alcohol flowing. If you’re wanting to have more than your recommended breastfeeding amount, then it’s a great idea to express some milk beforehand. This way you can skip the first feed after the event, and bottle feed your baby with your pre-expressed milk instead.
If you decide to go down this route, you may find that your breasts become uncomfortably full, so you may want to relieve the pressure by expressing off the excess milk. Maybe find a quiet corner to do this rather than whipping your breast pump out on the dance floor.
The risks of alcohol and breastfeeding
It shouldn’t come as a surprise to you that it’s not recommended to binge drink and breastfeed at the same time. Binge drinking is defined as having more than six units of alcohol in one sitting.
Consuming large amounts of alcohol regularly can cause many issues for both you and your baby. For instance, it can result in decreased milk production and reduced effectiveness of your let down reflex, due to its dabbling with your hormones. More worryingly, your baby’s growth, brain development and motor skills can be impaired by receiving too much alcohol from breastmilk.
What’s more, binge drinking large amounts of alcohol seriously hinders your ability to look after a baby (and tie your shoelaces). It goes without saying that if you’re planning on having a blow out, there should always be a responsible – and sober – adult in charge of your baby at any time. And, if you have been drinking, remember that you should never share a bed with your baby, as it’s much easier for accidents to happen.
Plus, parenting on a hang over is no one’s idea of fun.
Three tips for reducing the amount of alcohol your baby consumes through your breastmilk
- One: If you plan on having a drink, do it right after you’ve fed, that way there’s more time for alcohol to leave your bloodstream before you need to nurse again.
- Two: Get your baby familiar with feeding from a bottle well before you plan to offer them expressed milk.
- Three: Pre-express your breast milk to have on hand if you’ve had over the two recommended drink amount