Can You Drink Alcohol While Breastfeeding?


Is it a good idea to drink alcohol while you’re breastfeeding? If so, how much can you drink and what are the side effects?

Most doctors believe that it’s all right if you keep your alcohol consumption to one or two glasses of wine or beer a week when you’re nursing. Even though only about two percent of the alcohol you drink will enter your breast milk (and thus, also your baby), it’s better if you don’t breastfeed for two to three hours after drinking alcohol.

A common myth holds that if you have an alcoholic drink, you need to “pump and dump,” or express your milk using a breast pump, and throw away the milk before breastfeeding your baby again. Pumping and dumping won’t get rid of alcohol in milk. Alcohol stays in your bloodstream and breast milk for the same length of time it usually does, even if you pump.

Some mothers say dark beers like Guinness help them to produce more milk. Clinical studies indicate beer could increase prolactin levels; this hormone increases milk production. However, research suggests that nonalcoholic beer has the same effect, so it appears that the barley used to make both types of drinks is the ingredient that stimulates a prolactin increase. Ethanol, which is found in alcoholic drinks, may actually inhibit milk letdown and production, according to other medical studies.

How well can a baby metabolize alcohol? It depends on his or her age. A newborn processes alcohol very slowly, because his liver is more immature. A baby metabolizes alcohol at about half the speed of an adult. When baby turns three months of age, he or she will start to process alcohol more quickly. If you are a light drinker, your baby may respond to the alcohol by sleeping less. Conversely, heavy drinking may make your baby drowsy and weak; he or she is likely to sleep very deeply. Daily drinking could cause your baby to experience delays in gross motor development.


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