Understanding breastfeeding and alcohol can increase the ease and joy you find with breastfeeding. There is no need for you to feel stressed about pumping and dumping milk (gasp!) because you don’t know if its okay to use. There are resources to help you! If you want information on medications and breastfeeding, jump to this article.
There are a few things to understand with breastfeeding that will help you tailor decisions to your specific scenario.
1. How your body makes milk
2. How alcohol and medications filter through your breastmilk.
WHAT TO UNDERSTAND ABOUT BREASTFEEDING AND ALCOHOL
Alcohol does get into your breastmilk. Your body filters alcohol through your breast milk at the same rate it filters it through your blood. Read that again if you need to because that is the main thing to understand about alcohol and breastfeeding.
If you feel the effects of a drink there is alcohol in your blood AND in your breast milk. If you feel normal, like you could safely drive a car, you’re probably good to go to breastfeed. Since alcohol affects everyone differently this is key to understanding breastfeeding while enjoying that summer cocktail.
I DON’T APPRECIATE MAKING BREASTFEEDING HARDER
Breastfeeding is great for you and your baby . Some of the benefits last your entire lives. Any obstacle to breastfeeding will make people quit sooner. Making you feel scared to enjoy a glass of wine is an obstacle. It’s stressful to add in these various obstacles. Mamas won’t enjoy it and they’ll stop early. I am not a fan of advice that sounds like a scare tactic. I think it’s really important that you understand how your body makes milk so you can make better decisions.
A few other things can guide you. The US Surgeon General and the AAP suggest that a 140lb woman can consume two alcohol beverages per day and breastfeed without interruption. A 12 ounce beer, 5 ounce glass of wine, or 1.5 ounces of liquor are all considered one drink. The CDC recommends one drink per day. Their site says alcohol content in milk appears to be highest 30-60 minutes after drinking. Alcohol is present in milk for about 2-3 hours per drink.
While those are helpful guides, you can see they’re too vague. Many moms could have three drinks during one part of the day and safely breastfeed a different part of the day. 1 or 2 drinks “per day” doesn’t always help. Remember, your body filters alcohol through your breastmilk at the same rate as it does through your blood. Whether you feel normal or you feel the effects of the alcohol is an important piece of the puzzle. You know how your body works. You can likely predict when you’re having a drink if you’ll feel the effects of it in 30 minutes. You’re smart, mama, you’ve got this.
WHAT YOU NEED TO UNDERSTAND ABOUT PUMPING AND DUMPING
Pumping does not remove the alcohol from your body. Makes sense, right? Remember, your body filters alcohol through your breastmilk at the same rate it filters it through your blood. So, if you still have alcohol in your blood, it’s still in your breast milk, even if you pumped. After you pump, the alcohol is present in the pumped milk and your body can’t filter that pumped milk anymore. There is alcohol in the milk left in your breasts because it’s in your blood. Since the alcohol is in your blood it is in the milk your body is now making.
LET’S WALK THROUGH AN EXAMPLE OF BREASTFEEDING AND ALCOHOL
Say you had a babysitter and went to a wedding without babe. You choose to drink enough at the wedding that you are “feeling it”. Your alcohol level’s elevated. You have two choices:
1. You can pump the milk out and throw it away.
2. Don’t pump – leave the milk in your breasts, let them stay full and pump the next morning when you feel normal. You can save the milk because your body filtered the alcohol out of it.
WHAT YOU DECIDE WILL PROBABLY DEPEND ON YOUR SUPPLY AND HOW OLD YOUR BABY IS
You can change your tactic based on your circumstances. If your milk supply drops easily and you have a hard time keeping it up, you’ll want to remove milk frequently. This will help you maintain your supply. Going long stretches will encourage your body to make less milk. If this sounds like you, it may be better for you to remove the milk from your breasts and throw it out. Removing the milk signals to your body that you need that milk and it continues to make milk at the same rate. Your body doesn’t know baby didn’t drink that milk. When your breasts get full, it signals to your body that you don’t need as much milk. If you needed it, you would have removed it. Your body slows down production of milk. You may also chose to pump if your breasts are uncomfortable
You may have an older baby or a stable supply that easily goes up and down as you need it to. If this sounds like you, you can wait and pump or feed baby when you’re no longer feeling the effects of the alcohol. Your supply can handle your breasts being full this one night. You probably won’t even notice a dip in supply. Often, with a stable supply, it takes multiple days in a row before your body adjusts its milk supply. If you do notice a dip in milk volume, your body should be able to bring it back up, no problem. For more details on milk supply, check out this article.
CONSIDER THE TIME OF DAY
You may want to have your drink earlier in the evening instead of right before bed. While moms have amazing protective mechanisms to keep their babies safe during sleep, alcohol can decrease their responsiveness. You want to avoid bed sharing if anyone has consumed alcohol recently. Alcohol could make nursing in a chair during the night less safe. Consider having your beverage with dinner instead of as a night cap. That way you’ve metabolized it before making any sleep decisions. If you drink a lot, arrange for a sober adult to care for babe.
If you are planning to throw out milk you pumped, consider feeding it to a plant that is struggling. Or dump it in a bath to help your or baby’s skin. There are a lot of possible uses that don’t involve throwing it away. Did you know high end salons do breast milk facials?!
We know most alcohols aren’t health foods. Alcohol consumption is a risk factor for many diseases. Especially when consumed in large amounts. A few of my favorite swaps for alcohol are:
- sparkling water in a high-ball glass over a lot of ice, toped with berries, citrus, or both
- regular or ginger flavored kombucha in a copper mug with lime
CAN ALCOHOL INCREASE YOUR MILK SUPPLY?
The beer ingredients of Brewer’s yeast and barley are both commonly listed as galactagogues. Galactagogues are substances that increase milk supply. Many moms also report that breastfeeding smoothed out once they sat back with a glass of wine or a beer. I think there are certain mamas who get really stressed about breastfeeding. The relaxed mindset that comes with that glass of wine seems to help them get over the hump and into a beautiful breastfeeding journey. There is research behind that. One of the ways to increase milk supply while pumping is to turn the lights down, put your feet up, and relax.
Now, the other side of the coin is that alcohol can make it hard for your body to have a let down. Pay attention to your breasts and see if this may be the case for you.
BACK TO THE BASICS
Understanding alcohol and breastmilk is helpful for making informed decisions while breastfeeding. Your body filters alcohol through your breast milk at the same rate it filters it through your blood. This means that if you feel the effects of alcohol (feeling drunk or tipsy), there is alcohol present in your breast milk, too. On the other hand, if you feel fine and capable of driving safely, it’s likely safe to breastfeed. Remember that everyone reacts differently to alcohol. Understanding how your body responds is crucial to breastfeeding while occasionally enjoying a cocktail or two. Making informed choices about breastfeeding and alcohol can help you avoid unnecessary stress and enjoy the experience of nursing your baby. By understanding your body’s milk production and the impact of alcohol on breast milk, you can make decisions that are specific to you!
Was that clear? Do you feel like you can make good choices about your milk supply? About breastfeeding and alcohol?
Share with a friend so they don’t waste milk!