Breastfeeding and Alcohol

Thinking about drinking alcohol while breastfeeding?

  • Current research says that occasional use of alcohol (1-2 drinks) does not appear to be harmful to the nursing baby.
  • Per Hale (2017), “mothers who ingest alcohol in moderate amounts can generally return to breastfeeding as soon as they feel neurologically normal.”
  • Drink alcohol after breastfeeding, not before breastfeeding.
  • The benefits of breastfeeding outweigh the risks of an occasional drink of alcohol.
  • Invite your partner to limit their alcohol use to support you.

Standard drink size

  • 12 ounces (341ml) beer, cider or cooler (5% alcohol)
  • 1.5 ounces (42ml) of rum, gin, vodka, etc. (40% alcohol content)
  • 5 ounces (142ml) of wine (12% alcohol content)

Does alcohol get into breast milk?

  • Yes, alcohol passes into breast milk.
  • The amounts of alcohol moving into breast milk are very low compared to the alcohol consumed.

How long does it take for alcohol to leave my breast milk?

  • Alcohol levels peak in breast milk about 30-60 minutes after drinking.

Important considerations when breastfeeding and drinking alcohol

  • A newborn has an immature liver and will be more affected by alcohol.
  • A mother’s size has an impact on how quickly they metabolize alcohol.
  • The more alcohol you consume the longer it takes to leave your body.
  • An alcohol drink consumed with food decreases absorption.

Do I need to “Pump and Dump”?

Pumping or expressing your milk does not change the concentration that is already in your blood stream. Only time can decrease the concentration.

Drinking alcohol and caring for your baby

  • Drinking alcohol can affect a mother’s capacity to look after her baby.
  • Plan ahead – express and store your breast milk for when you plan to drink alcohol and cannot safely breastfeed your baby.

Can alcohol abuse affect a breastfed baby?

  • Yes. Alcohol abuse (excessive drinking) by the mother can result in slow weight gain or failure to thrive in her baby.
  • The baby may sleep excessively, or may not suck effectively, leading to decreased milk intake.
  • The baby may even suffer from delayed motor development.

If you’re concerned about consuming alcohol while breastfeeding, you might prefer to stick to non-alcoholic drinks instead.

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Last updated: 2019-08-20