Alcohol and Breastfeeding – All your Questions Answered

When it comes to alcohol and breastfeeding, it seems like everyone has an opinion.

Some women say that they’ve had a glass of wine and it is ok, some say you should stay absolutely as far as possible from alcohol.

You should restrain from drinking alcohol during your pregnancy due to health concerns. And the same can be told during your breastfeeding period.

With that in mind, almost every woman that has ever given birth asks a question related to alcohol and breastfeeding.

So, let’s answer all of those questions.

Will it harm my baby if I drink alcohol?

No matter if it is beer, wine, or hard liquor, alcohol could harm your breastfeeding baby.

The same amount of alcohol that makes it into your bloodstream also makes it into your breast milk.

Now, you might say that one glass of wine does not translate into a lot of alcohol. But you have to remember that your baby is tiny and has an immature liver.

What does that mean?

Simply put, your baby cannot process alcohol in the same way you can.

Infants that are younger than 3 months process alcohol at half the rate of adults.

Studies show that consuming alcohol while breastfeeding can affect the sleeping habits of your baby.

Four hours after you consume a drink, your baby will consume 20% less milk.

Other studies also show that alcohol can change the way your baby looks.

While the changes are subtle and not visible to the naked eye, it is still important to note that having a glass of wine can alter your baby’s face.

Will beer increase your breast milk supply?

This is one of the old wives tales that breastfeeding mother hear and repeat.

There is no scientific evidence that supports that the theory that drinking beer will boost milk supply.

Remember, this popular tale involves only beer, not any other type of alcohol.

If you look at the scientific evidence, alcohol actually might do the opposite.

Studies show that alcohol dehydrates your body, making your body lose fluid.

So, instead of boosting your milk supply, alcohol can negatively impact how much milk you produce.

Drinking alcohol also disrupts the hormones that are responsible for the production of milk.

While drinking alcohol can increase the levels of prolactin (hormone that helps in milk production), the levels of oxytocin decrease.

This hormone is responsible for milk letdown.

The studies show a clear connection why babies have a harder time breastfeeding when their mothers consume alcohol.

What happens when you drink beer is the following.

Alcohol in the beer stops the milk from flowing freely, which causes the milk to stay in the breasts.

That is why you get a false impression that you have more milk.

Is there a safe time to drink alcohol?

Let’s be honest, mothers can have a nerve breakdown, and they might reach for a glass of wine.

The safest option for breastfeeding mothers is not to drink alcohol at all.

But, there is a window which is considered safe.

Generally speaking, moderate amounts of alcohol, which is just 1 glass, are not known to be harmful to the infant.

But in order to drink safely, a mother has to wait at least 2 hours after she has finished nursing.

Two hours is the minimum amount for the mother to be able to process alcohol and provide alcohol-free nursing.

Alcohol consumption is not an indication to stop breastfeeding.

However, consuming high amounts of alcohol is not recommended.

Can alcohol leave traces in breast milk?

Alcohol levels are high in breast milk 30-60 minutes after consuming an alcoholic beverage.

But even after that, alcohol can be detected in breast milk. That applies for 2-3 hours per drink after consumption.

The more alcohol a mother consumes, the longer it takes for the body to process the alcohol.

That means that the length of time alcohol can be detected increases with more alcohol a woman consumes.

To put it in other words, one glass of alcohol can be detected for 2-3 hours after consumption, while alcohol from 2 glasses can be detected even after 4-5 hours, and so on.

There are also other factors, like how fast was the alcohol consumed, whether you consumed alcohol with food, weight of the mother, and how fast alcohol is broken down in the body.

Can pumping after consuming alcohol reduce the alcohol in the milk?

This is one of the popular “myths” about alcohol and breastfeeding.

Despite what some mothers say, the alcohol level in breast milk is the same, despite expressing or pumping after drinking alcohol.

You can pump and discard as much as you like, but it will not reduce the amount of alcohol present in your baby’s milk more quickly.

You can, however, decide to feed your baby with milk that has been previously expressed.

That is before you had a glass of alcohol. But this is not a long-term strategy that will bring success.

Just remember, breast milk continues to contain alcohol as long as there is alcohol in the mother’s bloodstream.

How to prevent dehydration?

Because alcohol is known to cause dehydration, and that is the last thing you need when you are breastfeeding, it is crucial that you prevent it.

In addition to the alcohol drink, get a glass of water as well.

Another good idea is to eat some food beforehand or while you are having your drink.

This will help lower the amount of alcohol in your blood and in your milk.

The psychological aspect of drinking

In addition to the health concerns of alcohol and breastfeeding, you should also look at consuming alcohol from another angle.

It is no secret that people can make some terrible decisions while they are under the influence of alcohol.

One of the most serious concerns involves driving while under influence with a child in your car.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, alcohol is implicated in one in five motor vehicles crashes involving a child. In 65% of the cases, the child was riding in the car with an impaired driver.

Violence and child maltreatment are also closely linked with heavy drinking, according to statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Statistics from the National Incidence Study of Child Abuse and Neglect, show that parental alcohol was involved in 13% of child maltreatment cases.

Putting aside those statistics, simply put, being drunk while caring for a baby is not a great idea.

Alcohol can impair your judgment and reaction time, both of which are crucial when you are taking care of a little baby.

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