When it comes to motherhood, there seems to be a lot of contradicting advice out there. Sometimes, it can be hard to know the correct answer to each question you may have.
Each mama knows consuming alcohol is a big "no" during pregnancy. But what about when it comes time to nurse? For something as precious and sacred as breastfeeding, it's essential that you know for certain the "dos" and "don'ts" of feeding your little one.
So, let's break down the most common questions about consuming alcohol during breastfeeding. And, most importantly, if it's safe for your baby.
See Related: Here's What You Need To Know About Maternity Leave
1. Can I Enjoy An Alcoholic Beverage?
Being a mama looks different for each woman, and that is something to be truly celebrated. Our diversity and individuality are what give us our power!
We all handle the journey of motherhood in different ways. Some aspects of being a mom come easy to some women, while it's more of a challenge to others. And that's okay!
One of those aspects is abstaining from alcohol during pregnancy. Each and every mama knows that for those nine months you're carrying your baby, there should be absolutely no alcohol intake.
For some soon-to-be mothers, avoiding alcohol isn't a big deal and it doesn't faze them. Especially if drinking was never a considerable part of their life, it makes no significant difference to cut it out.
For other mamas, once those nine months are over, it can feel so relieving to finally be able to enjoy a drink. Pregnancy is a challenging journey, and it's time to celebrate reaching the finish line!
When it comes down to it, yes - you can drink alcohol as a breastfeeding mama. However, before you start to pour the wine, let's dive into what it means to mix alcohol and breastfeeding.
2. Can Alcohol Get Into My Breast Milk?
Of course, one of the first questions on any mama's mind is if their liquid gold will feel the effects of that glass of wine. If you're looking for a short answer, then yes.
Almost anything you consume as a breastfeeding mother can potentially enter your milk supply in one way or another. That doesn't exclude alcohol.
However, this doesn't mean that when you ingest alcohol, it will stay in your milk forever. So even though any alcohol you consume can be absorbed into your milk supply, it will also eventually leave your milk.
Knowing how long alcohol will stick around in your milk supply can depend on many factors. This is where many more questions about the effects of drinking alcohol while breastfeeding can arise.
The amount of alcohol transferred into your milk supply usually depends on these baseline factors.
- How much alcohol you drank
- How much food you ate throughout the day
- Your body, including your body weight
- How quickly you consume alcohol
How Does Alcohol Enter My Breast Milk?
So, how does alcohol get into your milk supply?
When you drink any alcohol, it lingers in your system for a while by intoxicating your bloodstream. Alcohol isn't stored in the breast - it enters your milk through your blood.
But your blood alcohol level will eventually fall as your liver metabolizes what you drank. Any alcohol you consume will just need time to be processed by your body.
3. Should I Avoid Any Alcohol Consumption?
For a short answer, no! You don't need to swear off alcohol while breastfeeding. You can still enjoy a cocktail as long as you pay attention to your body.
The key to drinking alcohol while breastfeeding is to consume alcohol in moderation. Breastfeeding mothers have a huge responsibility when it comes to protecting the safety of their little ones, so make sure you know the potential effects of alcohol on your baby.
If you're a breastfeeding mama, excessive drinking or any alcohol abuse can potentially increase your baby's exposure to alcohol.
Unlike during pregnancy, there are not as many studies available on the effects of alcohol on babies during breastfeeding. However, it is known that babies metabolize alcohol much slower than adults.
For babies, exposure to alcohol can lead to irregular sleep patterns, abnormal weight gain, or may contribute to delayed motor development, according to recent studies.
Chronic or heavy consumers of alcohol should reconsider breastfeeding due to the increased amount of alcohol lingering in their milk. If you want to breastfeed, ensure you are not doing anything that can negatively affect your baby's milk intake.
How much alcohol can you drink while breastfeeding?
Like with many things in life, moderation is key. Lactating women should avoid binge drinking and consuming a large number of alcoholic beverages on a regular basis.
If you plan to breastfeed, you'll need to wait until any alcohol consumed has left your bloodstream. It's a general rule that if you are sober enough to drive, you are okay to breastfeed.
If you want to just enjoy the occasional drink, that's okay! If you happen to get drunk, don't worry about that too much, either. Just remember that even one drink will take around a couple of hours to leave your system, and plan accordingly.
Preparation Is Vital
If you're a breastfeeding mama, it's a good idea to plan ahead, especially if you know you have alcohol on your agenda. Make sure you eat healthy and filling meals throughout the day (never drink on an empty stomach) and stay hydrated.
It's also important to keep in mind that if you drink an alcoholic beverage, you should not sleep in the same bed as your baby. This has a strong association with sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). So make sure you've also planned your and your baby's necessary sleeping arrangements after a night of drinking alcohol.
It also might be a smart idea to pump and store some of your liquid gold before drinking. Setting aside some of your breast milk will give you peace of mind and allow you to enjoy the moment!
For storing your liquid gold, choose a reliable and 100% plastic-free container like the glass breast milk storage bottles at Mila's Keeper. These beautifully designed storage containers are made of medical-grade glass suitable for any temperature, from the deep cold of your freezer to the heat of your microwave.
They're also compatible with leading breast pumps and nipples, which only makes them more convenient for feeding your little one. Knowing that your baby's milk is safe and secure is one fantastic way to feel happy and comfortable in motherhood.
Bonus: Why Gender-Inclusive Lactation-Related Language Matters
4. Can I Just Pump And Dump?
After drinking alcohol, sometimes mamas can get a little impatient in waiting for their bodies to metabolize and erase the alcohol from their system. There's a misconception that "pumping and dumping" is a quick shortcut to speeding up the body's natural process of eliminating toxins from your milk.
Pumping milk is a good idea if you're uncomfortable and you're looking to relieve some of that discomfort. But it won't actually make the alcohol leave your body faster.
If you express milk while there is still alcohol in your system, it will need to be discarded anyway. And then there will still be alcohol in your blood, which will reinfiltrate your breast milk.
If you drank an alcoholic beverage or two, you'd need to wait the appropriate amount of time for your body to do its thing to get rid of the alcohol in your blood. Shortcuts won't help.
When it comes down to it, there's not a lot you can do to coax your body into processing alcohol faster. Many try drinking coffee to sober up after a night of moderate drinking, but all that does is trick your mind into feeling re-energized.
Other activities like taking a cold shower, drinking excessive water, or exercising won't speed up your body's process of metabolizing alcohol. Just sit back, relax, and wait!
5. Does Drinking Alcohol Boost My Milk Supply?
It seems like when it comes to breastfeeding, there are a lot of myths floating around. Luckily, it's relatively easy to dispel any unhelpful misconceptions that may circulate in today's modern world.
There's an old wives tale from many years ago that drinking alcohol while breastfeeding will boost your breast milk production. However, this isn't true.
It is possible that this myth was actually true when it first popped up many years ago. In the past, alcoholic beverages were made with a lesser amount of pure alcohol and with more grains and herbs. Historically, a traditional beer or alcoholic beverage was probably more nutritious than a modern-day alcoholic drink.
Regardless, alcohol consumption doesn't increase your milk production. On the other hand, it lowers it, if anything.
Keep in mind that drinking alcohol can also affect more than just your milk production. Any alcoholic drink consumed can alter your milk's taste, making it less desirable for your baby. This can lead to a decreased milk intake for your little one. Studies have shown that any alcohol lingering in your breast milk will cause your baby to get 20% less milk.
Additionally, maternal alcohol consumption can also lead to a decreased milk ejection reflex. When your milk ejection reflex is altered, it can also cause your baby to get less milk.
6. How Long Should I Wait After Drinking Alcohol To Feed My Baby?
Each and every one of us has a unique body that is beautiful in its own individual way. So for each of us, it will take a different amount of time to rid our system of alcohol.
Before breastfeeding, it's essential to wait till your blood alcohol levels are low enough, so your breast milk doesn't contain any traces of alcohol. How long you will need to wait will depend on many factors.
When you're drinking alcohol, maternal blood alcohol levels are usually highest anywhere from 30 minutes to 90 minutes after the first drink. That's usually when the alcohol levels in breast milk are highest also.
Of course, if you decide to have more than one drink, that level will only keep going up. The more alcohol you drink, the more it will be in your blood.
Your body weight can be a considerable factor, as well as how much food you eat during the day. Keeping your body fueled with healthy and nutritious foods will help make sure it has the energy and sustenance to fight off any alcohol.
The most significant factor is the amount of alcohol you drink. If you drink more, there will be more alcohol in your system, and it'll take longer to clear out.
It's said that for one standard drink, you'll need to wait at least a couple of hours before breastfeeding. But any more than that is more challenging to decipher just how long enough time is.
As a mama, you know your body better than anyone! Listen to what it tells you - usually, you're good to go whenever you are back to feeling 100% sober.
Regardless, don't stress too much about drinking alcohol while breastfeeding. Ensure you're drinking responsibly, and keep in mind these tips we've laid out for you. Cheers!
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A female-designed and female-run company, Mila's Keeper is on a mission to empower women to thrive during their breastfeeding journey by offering reusable, eco-friendly breast milk storage solutions for their day-to-day needs. Get the latest tips and info on Mila's Keeper products by following us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and LinkedIn.