Alcohol and breastfeeding

Alcohol and BreastfeedingYou have waited many months and finally you have given birth to your beautiful baby! Now you want to celebrate with a glass of champagne, right? Don’t fill up your glass just yet. When you drink alcohol and then breastfeed your baby, she is exposed to a small amount of the alcohol you drink. Your baby eliminates the alcohol from her body at only half the rate you do. Therefore, it stays in your baby’s system, which is not good for her.

Don’t believe the myths

• It was once believed that drinking beer was a way to increase a mother’s milk supply, but that is not true. Research has shown that drinking beer does not increase your milk supply. In fact, drinking alcohol of any kind may decrease the amount of breastmilk your baby drinks. Alcohol can change the taste of your milk, which your baby may not like, and can result in your baby taking in less breastmilk.  Chronic drinking of alcohol may also reduce your milk production.

• Some people believe “pumping and dumping” (expressing breastmilk and then throwing it away instead of giving it to your baby) will get rid of the alcohol from your body quicker, but this is not true either. Pumping and dumping does not have any effect on how quickly alcohol leaves your body. However, if you miss a feeding session due to having had an alcoholic drink, then pumping and dumping will help you maintain your milk supply and avoid engorgement (when your breasts are swollen with milk to the point of hurting).

Bottom line

Avoid alcohol when you’re breastfeeding. However, if you have a drink, allow at least 2 hours per drink before your next breastfeeding or pumping session. This allows your body to have as much time as possible to process the alcohol out of your system before your baby’s next feeding. If you do drink alcohol, don’t have more than two drinks a week (one alcoholic drink is equal to a 12-ounce beer, a 4-ounce glass of wine or 1 ounce of hard liquor.)

You may also want to pump after your feedings when you have not had a drink. This way, you will have extra milk stored to feed your baby if you have been drinking when you need to breastfeed.

You also can pass street drugs, like heroin and cocaine, to your baby through breast milk. Tell your health care provider if you need help to quit using street drugs or drinking alcohol.

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