Alcohol and Breastfeeding: Can Nursing Moms Have an Occasional Drink?

Nursing mothers often have common fears when it comes to what they can and can not eat and drink while breastfeeding. Many women worry about alcohol getting into their milk supply if they have an occasional drink. There is also a common misconception that if a woman drinks she can “pump and dump”, expressing milk and throwing it away so that the milk that comes in afterward will be alcohol-free.

Consuming alcohol occasionally is safe for a breastfeeding mother as long as she is armed with all of the facts and knows her limitations.

Limit Consumption

Nursing mothers should limit their consumption of alcoholic beverages while breastfeeding to one or two a week. Only about 2% of alcohol is present in breast milk after consumption but the more a woman drinks the higher the concentration of alcohol in the milk supply. Thus mothers should drink conservatively.

Pumping and Dumping Does Not Work

Many nursing mothers believe that if they pump their milk after they breastfeed and throw what has expressed away, the milk that comes in behind it will not have traces of alcohol in it. This is a major breastfeeding myth. The only method that leads to the removal of alcohol from the milk supply is the passage of time.

Alcohol Does Not Help Increase Breast Milk Supply

Some women are told by their mothers or grandmothers that drinking a beer a day will help increase their milk supply. This is not true. Not only does alcohol not increase a woman’s milk supply, excessive or frequent use may cause it to decrease. Read more about this topic on NHS.uk.

Wait Before Breastfeeding after Consuming Alcohol

According to the La Leche League International, nursing mothers should wait at least two to three hours per drink after consuming alcoholic beverages. By doing this mothers can be certain that the amount of alcohol in their milk is minimal. Mothers who know they are going to be drinking more than a few drinks should consider expressing their milk and storing it for feeding when there may be a higher level of alcohol in their milk. You should read How Long Does Alcohol Stay in Your System by HealthEssential.net to know when you should breastfeed your baby and when not to.

The Younger the Child the Greater the Effects

The effects of a small amount of alcohol present in a mother’s milk are less in a child over three months of age than they are in a newborn because the baby’s liver can better handle its presence. Babies who have been exposed to too much alcohol in mother’s milk may experience:

  • Drowsiness
  • Deep Sleep
  • Growth retardation

Mother’s with children under the age of three months should take extra precautions to make sure they have waited long enough to feed their baby so that alcohol is not present in breast milk. As an added precaution breastfeeding mothers with babies under the age of three months may want to avoid drinking at all.

Being a breastfeeding mother does not mean a woman has to sacrifice certain pleasures like the occasional glass of wine or bottle of beer. It does mean that a woman has to be a little more cautious and take more responsibility to plan ahead as her drinking not only affects herself but her baby as well.