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Alcohol and Breastfeeding

You have had your baby and you can finally return to enjoying the food and drinks you have not been able to have for the last nine months. One question many new mothers ask is if it is okay for them to drink alcohol while they are breastfeeding.

Can You Drink While Breastfeeding?

According to the CDC, it is not recommended to drink, but if you do wish to do so, it needs to be done in moderation, with only a single beverage, once or twice a week. Make sure you wait at least two hours after consuming alcohol to breastfeed; if you are sober enough to drive, you are likely sober enough to breastfeed. The exact amount of time the alcohol remains in the mother’s bloodstream depends on a number of factors, including if food is consumed with the alcohol, the mother’s weight, how quickly the alcohol is consumed, and how quickly your body breaks down alcohol.

Exposing infants to higher levels of alcohol can “be damaging to an infant’s development, growth, and sleep patterns.” To help with moderation, try to limit your drinks to five ounces of wine, 12 ounces of beer, or 1.5 ounces of hard alcohol. This equals out to a single drink. It is highly recommended you do not binge drink or get drunk while breastfeeding, and it is especially important to make sure it has fully left your system before you feed the baby next.

Is There Alcohol in Breastmilk?

Yes. The alcohol “passes into your breast milk at concentrations similar to those found in your bloodstream.” The baby is only exposed to a small fraction of the alcohol you drink, but their body takes twice as long to process alcohol through its system, and studies have indicated that when there is alcohol in the breast milk, babies will drink about 20 percent less of it. If you are planning on drinking, try to pump before you do so if the baby needs to be fed before the alcohol is out of your system, you have some safe milk ready for them.

Pumping will not speed up the amount of alcohol in your breast milk. You only need to worry about pumping if you are missing a normal feeding time. The alcohol does not get trapped in the breastmilk, it will leave the breastmilk as it leaves your bloodstream. Resting, drinking water or coffee also will not speed up the elimination of the alcohol from your system.

Does Alcohol Affect Milk Production?

There is a common myth that alcohol will help increase your milk production. Studies have shown that this is completely false. In fact, a hormone involved in lactation — oxytocin — can become suppressed when alcohol is combined with breastfeeding. Alcohol consumption may actually decrease your milk production, so it is important to keep an eye on your milk production when you have been drinking.

“Limited data suggest that drinking even one alcoholic beverage can reduce milk volume by 23 percent, and drinking two or more alcoholic beverages may inhibit let-down,” said Amy Schutt, M.D., an assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Baylor College of Medicine.

Conclusion

It is recommended that you avoid alcohol while breastfeeding, but it is widely accepted that if you drink occasionally and in moderation, your baby should not suffer any ill effects. Ultimately, it is up to you and you should trust your intuition when it comes to this.

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