Can You Drink While Breastfeeding?

Sit Back, Relax and Grab a Glass of Wine: It's OK While Breastfeeding

Your baby is down for the night, or at least for the next few hours, so you finally breathe a sigh of relief and grab a glass of wine. On second thought, you begin to wonder if a glass of wine is OK since your baby will want to nurse again. Good news for breastfeeding moms around the world: A drink here or there is perfectly safe for you and your baby, but you should keep a few things in mind.

How Much Alcohol Is Safe?

Wine Pouring into Glass

Does Drinking One Glass of Wine While Breast Feeding Harm a Baby?

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So, can you have one drink or two drinks? Are wine, beer and liquor all OK? The answers to these questions can vary from mom to mom as much as each mother’s breastfeeding experience varies. A safe bet is that one or two drinks are acceptable, but it depends on your weight. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no more than a half-gram of alcohol per kilogram of body weight. So, the amount you can safely drink depends on your drink of choice. Around 2 ounces of liquor, 8 ounces of wine or two beers is safe for a mom who weighs around 130 pounds.

Feeding Your Baby After Drinking

Relax and enjoy your drink, but wait a bit before you feed your baby. While not much alcohol passes into your milk, it’s still best to give your body at least two hours to process that alcohol before nursing your little one. You need that relaxing drink more than he does. If you’ve lost track of time, enjoying the peace and quiet, a good rule of thumb is that if you feel sober enough to drive, it’s probably safe to breastfeed your baby.

Effects of Alcohol on Babies

Wine Pouring into Glass

The American Academy of Pediatrics on Breastfeeding & Alcohol

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Having an occasional drink is part of many moms' survival guide to parenthood, but it’s important to remember that too much alcohol can have a negative effect on your breastfeeding experience and your little one. A 130-pound mother who drinks two ounces of liquor every day may see a decrease in her milk production. Babies who are exposed to too much alcohol may show signs of extreme drowsiness, weakness and slow growth.

If an energy drink or a little caffeine is a better fix for you than a glass of wine, limit the amount you drink to two to three cups a day. Drinking more might mean poor sleeping and irritability in your little one.

The age of your baby is also a factor in how she’ll metabolize the alcohol or caffeine if you still have some in your system. A newborn has an immature liver and is affected more by alcohol than a 6-month-old baby.

Getting the Alcohol Out of Your Breast Milk

Many moms have probably heard the phrase “pump and dump” when talking about breastfeeding and drinking. This means drinking, pumping your breast milk and then throwing it away. Really, though, what breastfeeding mom wants to throw away her breast milk? Pumping actually doesn’t speed up how quickly alcohol leaves your breast milk, and neither does drinking lots of water or coffee. Only time can eliminate the alcohol. So, if you pump immediately after drinking and then feed your baby right away, alcohol is still in your milk.

Your best bet is to not pump and just wait a couple hours to feed your baby. If your breasts feel too full while you wait, you can pump a little until you’re comfortable. Remember, your size, your body fat and whether you've eaten all affect how quickly your body metabolizes the alcohol.

Tips to Enjoy the Occasional Drink

Being a mom is hard, and breastfeeding can make parenting even more difficult. Every mom needs a break now and then, and with some careful planning, you can make the most of that cocktail. Enjoy a drink right after breastfeeding to maximize the time before you nurse your little one again. Alternatively, store a few bags of pumped milk in the freezer for your baby instead of nursing when you want to enjoy a night out without worrying.