Alcohol and Breastfeeding – It Might be Possible to Drink a Little under Certain Conditions

Alcohol and breastfeeding don’t go together. It’s common knowledge. The alcohol the mother consumes accumulates in her milk in a concentration level almost similar to that in her blood. So it is strongly recommended to completely avoid drinking while breastfeeding.  

However, if you cannot avoid alcohol altogether, here is what you have to do to minimize the harmful effect  

  • If you intend to consume one alcoholic beverage (and no more than one), you had better do it right after you finished breastfeeding so that the alcohol concentration in your body will decrease until the next time you feed your baby.  
  • Wait at least two hours from drinking to breastfeeding. The highest alcohol level in breast milk appears usually 30-60 minutes after drinking.   
  • If possible, it’s recommended to pump milk for the next feeding and only then to drink.  
  • Studies conducted on alcohol and breastfeeding found that nursing your baby or pumping milk one hour before drinking may slightly reduce the level of alcohol in your breast milk. There is no clear explanation to why it is happening.  
  • After drinking an alcoholic beverage, you should drink at least one glass of water to prevent dehydrating your body.  
  • If you have reason to suspect that the alcohol level in your blood and milk is too high, avoid nursing your baby and opt for bottle feeding using infant formula.   

The implications of drinking alcohol while breastfeeding 

Babies’ body find it very hard to deal with even a small amount of alcohol both because of its small size and because the liver is not yet functioning efficiently. Infants up to the age of 3 months will get rid of alcohol in their blood at a rate that is 50% lower than that of an adult.   

Moreover, alcohol significantly reduces the efficiency of breastfeeding. Several studies have shown that babies who were nursed 4 hours after their mother consumed one drink (wine and even beer) ate 20 – 25 percent less than they should. This is because alcohol reduces the level of oxytocin – a hormone that helps in the production of milk.  

Alcohol and breastfeeding should be avoided for another reason. Medical studies have found a direct link between mother milk containing alcohol and sleep disorders among babies who consumed it. These babies fell asleep much faster but for a shorter duration. When they woke up, they tended to be more sleepy and much less alert to their surroundings.   

Finally, although it has not been proven scientifically, many doctors suspect that babies who are exposed to alcohol in their mothers’ milk may suffer from motor skill developmental delays – another reason for avoiding, or at least, minimizing alcohol and breastfeeding.