Some of you may be like, no way I'm touching any alcohol while pregnant or breastfeeding! Maybe you aren't much of a drinker anyway, so it doesn't affect you much at all. But, me? I really love a glass of good wine, or that ice-cold beer on a hot day, or a nice cocktail when I'm in that kind of mood. Are we terrible mothers for having a drink while breastfeeding? I say no! But of course, there's a responsible way to go about it.
If you are still shaking your head about this drinking and breastfeeding business, don’t take my word for it. The CDC says that moderate consumption (one drink per day) is not known to be harmful. Even if you have more than one drink per day, it’s not an indication to stop breastfeeding because breast milk has a lot of protective qualities, so weighing the cost and benefits, it’s better to breastfeed and drink than to not breastfeed at all.
As I said, there's a responsible way to do it. There’s a time when your milk has the lowest, or highest, alcohol content. It typically takes around 30 minutes for your blood alcohol level, and therefore milk level, to peak at its highest, and two hours for that drink to metabolize out of your system.
Having your baby on the breast while sucking down your cocktail sounds like something out of a Bad Moms movie, but crazy as it sounds, that’s actually the time when your milk has the least amount of alcohol because it hasn’t had time to reach your milk yet. Since alcohol is water soluble, like caffeine, it flows between your blood and milk, so while it gets in your milk, it also flows out as your body metabolizes it.
This means that the worst time to breastfeed is 30-60 minutes after having a drink and the best time is before, during or two hours after having that drink.
How much alcohol gets in your milk anyway? Well, it’s pretty much the same as what gets in your blood. The legal driving limit is 0.08% blood alcohol. If you think about having a drink that has 0.08% alcohol, you probably wouldn’t have any effects at all.
This may shock you, but plain ole orange juice can actually have as much at 0.73% alcohol! Bring this back to your baby drinking breast milk with 0.08% alcohol and any effects would be nearly null (if your baby is a preemie, a newborn or has medical issues, best to err on the side of caution and avoid alcohol during that time).
Besides the weight gain from those extra calories, and the hangover, the biggest problem with drinking too much and breastfeeding would probably be your impaired ability to take care of your baby. It would be a terrible thing if you tripped while holding your baby and she got injured. If you really feel the need to party it up, hire a sitter.
If you know you are going to want to enjoy a nice glass of wine with dinner, feed your baby beforehand. You have around two hours before you will need to feed again (this is when exclusively breastfeeding – you will have more time between feedings when your baby starts to eat solids). After around two hours, the glass of wine will be out of your system.
Now, I did say a glass, maybe two, of wine, not a whole bottle! You need to leave the real partying for later when your baby is older, not feeding as much and you can plan ahead by pumping, but at least you can enjoy a couple of glasses while your baby is younger.
A good rule of thumb is if you are able to drive, you are able to breastfeed. You should know how you should feel to be safe to drive. If you are at that point, then you are good to go!
I will tell you that, realistically, your baby needs to be at least six months or older and eating solids before planning a night out, unless you are lucky enough or smart enough (or a bit of both), to have pumped a big supply and have it on hand.
However, when your baby is so small, a hangover the next morning would really suck! Once your baby is eating real food, the milk feedings get spread out longer, so you have more time in between and more versatility.
Hang in there, mama - you will be enjoying cocktail hour again before you know it!
Do you want more info on tips and tricks of breastfeeding, as well as info on what to eat, why you aren't losing weight and more, all from your BFF? Check out my book here!
Estimates of Ethanol Exposure in Children from Food not Labeled as Alcohol-Containing https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5421578/
Episode 62 Alcohol and Lactation: A Reassuring Look at the Numbers