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Is It Safe To Drink Alcohol While Breastfeeding?

There is a lot of conflicting information out there in relation to drinking alcohol while breastfeeding. The bottom line is if you are breastfeeding, you need to be extremely cautious with any alcohol intake.

The safest option is to avoid alcohol whilst breastfeeding – especially in the first few weeks until there is some sort of pattern to your baby’s feeding. If you do decide to drink once breastfeeding is established, there are steps you can take that will protect your baby from exposure to alcohol through your milk.

It takes time for your body to remove any alcohol you drink (two to three hours for every standard drink) so that your milk is safe again for your baby. 

What Happens When A Breastfeeding Woman Drinks Alcohol?

According to breastfeeding.ie from the HSE, alcohol passes freely from your blood to your breast milk and will be in your breastmilk 30 - 60 minutes after you start drinking. As alcohol leaves a breastfeeding mother’s body, it also leaves her breast milk.  It can take to two to three hours for the amount of alcohol in one standard drink to fully leave your body. A single unit of alcohol includes a small glass of wine or half a pint of beer. Learn more about standard drinks here

When Is It Safe To Breastfeed After Drinking Alcohol?

Drinking water, resting or ‘pumping and dumping’ (expressing breast milk and throwing it away) will not reduce the amount of alcohol in your breast milk. Only time will reduce the amount of alcohol in your breast milk and in your bloodstream. However, expressing breast milk and throwing it away can be used to relieve any breast fullness or engorgement while delaying the next feed. 

Can Alcohol Affect Milk Supply?

Your milk flow may not be as strong as usual if there is alcohol in your system, but this will return to normal again once your body has cleared the alcohol. There's no evidence that alcohol helps you produce more milk. Rest, following a healthy lifestyle, and letting your baby breastfeed whenever they want will all help increase your milk supply. 

Be Careful With Alcohol

Remember that alcohol can affect your judgement and coordination, you may not be able to take care of your baby properly if you are affected by alcohol. 

It's best to stick to one or two standard drinks per sitting to limit the amount of alcohol in your bloodstream. Try to breastfeed your baby before you drink alcohol, so you have time in between your feeds for the alcohol to leave your body. Remember it takes roughly two hours for your system to clear each drink. 

Planning ahead is the key to ensuring that you avoid exposing your baby to alcohol through your breastmilk. 

  How To Prepare In Advance For A Night Out:

  1. Express your milk in advance. Express enough milk ahead of your night out so that your babysitter can give your baby milk if you miss a feed while out or while you are waiting for the amount of alcohol in your milk to drop.      
  2. Choose a reliable babysitter. Make sure your chosen babysitter is someone you know very well. A family member or close friend who is reliable is a good choice. You will feel safe knowing your baby is in capable hands when going out. Arrange for a babysitter or someone not affected by alcohol to care for your baby and stay overnight if necessary.         
  3. Avoid co-sleeping. Do not take your baby into bed with you if either you or your partner have consumed alcohol or taken medication/drugs – it is not safe.
  4. Limit the amount you drink. When you’re out, try to limit your alcohol consumption by drinking water in between your drinks.
  5. Express while you’re out. While you’re out for the evening, or when you’re waiting for alcohol to clear from your system, you might need to express and dump the milk, to relieve feelings of fullness and maintain your milk supply.

Every Breastfeed Makes a Difference

This article is sponsored by the HSE. The HSE website www.breastfeeding.ie has lots of information for moms and dads-to-be on breastfeeding, with videos, and great tips on preparing for breastfeeding.


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eumom team 

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