Drinking & Breastfeeding, The Dos & Donts

By: Shari Criso MSN, RN, CNM, IBCLC Thursday, 08 August 2019 02:00 PM Alcohol and Breastfeeding

Parenting can be exhausting and hard, even when everything is going well. When we add unnecessary limitations, it gets even harder. Drinking alcohol may be one of the most common and divisive issues when it comes to limitations! Fortunately, much of the information being shared isn’t as factual as we are lead to believe.

Let’s start with the popular “Pump & Dump” idea… Is it really necessary? When we dig in to the science, the answer is usually no. If there is alcohol in mom’s blood, there is also alcohol in mom’s milk. Pumping out milk to remove the alcohol will not work, because the milk coming right behind it will still have alcohol in it for as long as it’s still in mom’s blood. You do NOT need to pump for the purpose of speeding up how fast the alcohol leaves your milk.

What you do need is time. As time passes, your blood alcohol level will drop and so will your milk alcohol level. Just as the alcohol passes into your milk in small quantities, it also passes back out of your milk with the passage of time.

However, you may need to pump if baby isn’t with you to remove milk. Whether we’re drinking or not, it’s important to remove milk from the breast regularly in order to demand ongoing milk production and prevent engorgement, clogs, and mastitis. When you’re out for a drink and away from baby, plan to pump as often as baby would’ve breastfed if you were together. This protects your breastfeeding relationship and the health of your milk ducts.

In general, a mom who is drinking in moderation, sober enough to care for herself, and can safely operate a vehicle is also safe to nurse her baby. The baby receives only a fraction of mom’s blood alcohol content. The greatest concern in a drinking mom is that intoxication could cause mom to accidentally drop baby, fall asleep in unsafe conditions, forget to nurse baby or pump, or be unable to respond in real time to baby’s needs. The baby’s physical safety is the number one concern, with contaminated milk being very unlikely in a mom who is drinking moderately.

Here are a few tips to keep mom and baby both safe while enjoying occasional alcoholic drinks…

  • Enjoy drinks without shame, in moderation, because parenting is hard enough without giving up something that can be enjoyable and social.
  • Eat a nutrient dense meal and maintain good hydration while drinking alcohol.
  • If you are going to have a drink, try to
  • Have a partner or support person present to care for you and baby just in case intoxication sets in unexpectedly.
  • Listen to your body, remembering that after almost a year or more of possibly no alcohol at all, and limited sleep, your tolerance may not be what it was before.
  • Avoid placing complete trust in breast milk test strips, online calculators, and other generic tools for estimating breastfeeding safety related to alcohol consumption. With so many variables, they can be unreliable at best.

It’s likely that you’ve given up a great deal of things you enjoy for your precious baby. From our favorite jeans to uninterrupted sleep, these sacrifices are worth it but not unnoticed. There is no need to also completely abstain from alcohol consumption. If the occasional drink with friends or loved ones is something you enjoy, go ahead and do so responsibly. Cheers to your hard work, mom!


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