The topic of drinking alcohol and breastfeeding has come up several times recently, so I wanted to make the answers easy to find.
A small amount of alcohol does go into your breastmilk when you drink, but it doesn't stay there. It leaves the milk just as it goes into your blood and then goes out again. You do NOT need to pump and dump after drinking alcohol. You simply need to wait to nurse (or pump) until the alcohol level in your milk goes down. A good rule of thumb is that if you can drive, you can breastfeed.
Here is a good article on the topic written by a lactation consultant. I was just going to post the link, but I decided to copy the article here so it is more easily accessible. This source of this article is http://kellymom.com/health/lifestyle/alcohol.html
Breastfeeding and Alcohol
By Kelly Bonyata, IBCLC
- Current research says that occasional use of alcohol (1-2 drinks)
is not harmful to the nursing baby. The American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Drugs classifies alcohol (ethanol) as a “Maternal Medication Usually Compatible With Breastfeeding.”
- Many experts recommend against drinking more than 1-2 drinks
- It is recommended that nursing moms avoid breastfeeding during
and for 2-3 hours after drinking (Hale 2002).
- There is no need to pump & dump milk after drinking
alcohol, other than for mom's comfort -- pumping &
dumping does not speed the elimination of alcohol from
- Alcohol does not increase milk production,
and has been shown to inhibit let-down and decrease milk production
- If you're away from your baby, try to pump as often as baby
usually nurses (this is to maintain milk supply, not because of
the alcohol). At the very least, pump or hand express whenever
you feel uncomfortably full - this will help you to avoid plugged
ducts and mastitis.
In general, if you are sober enough to drive, you are sober enough
to breastfeed. Less than 2% of the alcohol consumed by the mother
reaches her blood and milk. Alcohol peaks in mom's blood and milk
approximately 1/2-1 hour after drinking (but there is considerable
variation from person to person, depending upon how much food was
eaten in the same time period, mom's body weight and percentage
of body fat, etc.). Alcohol does not accumulate in breastmilk, but
leaves the milk as it leaves the blood; so when your blood alcohol
levels are back down, so are your milk alcohol levels.
Always keep in mind the baby's age when considering the effect
of alcohol. A newborn has a very immature liver, so minute amounts
of alcohol would be more of a burden. Up until around 3 months of
age, infants detoxify alcohol at around half the rate of an adult.
An older baby or toddler can metabolize the alcohol more quickly.
Effects of alcohol on breastfeeding and the breastfed baby
- Alcohol does not increase milk production. In fact, babies
nurse more frequently but take in less milk in the 3-4 hours after
mom has had a drink, and one study showed a 23% decrease in milk
volume with one drink (Mennella & Beauchamp
1991, 1993; Mennella 1997, 1999).
- 2+ drinks may inhibit let-down (Coiro et al
1992; Cobo 1974).
- One study showed changes in the infant's sleep-wake patterning
after short-term exposure to small amounts of alcohol in breastmilk
-- infants whose mothers were light drinkers slept less (Mennella
& Gerrish 1998).
- Daily consumption of alcohol has been shown in the research
to increase the risk for slow weight gain in the infant.
- Daily consumption of alcohol (1+ drinks daily) has been associated
with a decrease in gross motor development (Little
et al 1989).