The holiday season is quickly approaching, and Thanksgiving can be the kickoff for weeks of parties and events. If you’re breastfeeding, you may be wondering whether it’s okay to celebrate the holidays with an adult drink or two. There are lots of questions around breastfeeding and alcohol.
The good news is that the rules for drinking alcohol and breastfeeding are a little different than when you were pregnant. The biggest question we get at the BRC is, “do I have to ‘pump and dump”?”
The answer is . . .not necessarily.
How much alcohol gets to your baby when breastfeeding?
It may be helpful to know that the levels of alcohol in your milk are nearly equal to the levels in your bloodstream. This means that if you’ve had one drink and you do not feel intoxicated, there is probably only a minimal amount of alcohol in your milk as well. Conversely, if there is enough alcohol in your system that you feel drunk, or even a little tipsy, your milk has too much alcohol in it and you should wait to breastfeed.
Just one drink of alcohol
So, if you were to have the equivalent of one drink…
One drink = 12 oz. of 5% beer, 5 oz. of 11% wine, or 1.5 oz. of 40% liquor (80 proof)
…and you feel completely sober, you can probably go ahead and breastfeed. To be on the safe side, you may want to wait two hours after one alcohol drink before breastfeeding.
A good plan for having a celebratory alcohol drink would be: breastfeed first, enjoy your beverage, and then by the time your baby is ready to nurse again, most of the alcohol will likely be out of your system.
Were you told to have a beer to increase supply?
Some may tell you to drink a beer to increase milk supply. While the hops in beer has been to help with supply, the alcohol in beer can actually dull your oxytocin response. Oxytocin is responsible for milk “let down.” So, while the hops in beer may slightly increase supply, the alcohol offsets this benefit.
A long night of drinking
Now, if you are planning a night of drinking, that is another story. After several drinks you will have too much alcohol in your system to safely breastfeed.
You may find the need to “pump and dump” after having two or more drinks, but remember that pumping will not remove the alcohol from your milk. As long as there us alcohol in your blood, there is alcohol in your milk. The purpose of “pumping and dumping” at this point would be to keep your breasts comfortable and protect your milk supply. You should pump as often as your baby would nurse. You can breastfeed again, whenever you feel completely sober.
So, if you are enjoying a glass of wine or beer with dinner, you may not have to interrupt breastfeeding. But if you are planning a big night of drinking this holiday season, you will want to wait until the next day to nurse your little one.
Of course, if you choose to drink, please drink responsibly.
by Janice McPhelin, IBCLC
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