Alcohol and breastfeeding is a topic that comes up every day in the MM community. The information provided here is intended to help women research and educate themselves to make an informed decision for themselves and their families. We encourage all of our members who choose to drink to do so responsibly, in moderation, and occasionally.
The American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Drugs considers
alcohol compatible with breastfeeding. It lists possible side effects if
consumed in large amounts, including: drowsiness, deep sleep, weakness,
and abnormal weight gain in the infant, and the possibility of decreased
milk-ejection reflex in the mother.
Dr. Jack Newman, member of the LLLI Health Advisory Council, says this
in his handout “More Breastfeeding Myths”:
Reasonable alcohol intake should not be discouraged at all. As is the case
with most drugs, very little alcohol comes out in the milk. The mother can
take some alcohol and continue breastfeeding as she normally does.
Prohibiting alcohol is another way we make life unnecessarily restrictive
for nursing mothers.”
Thomas W. Hale, R.Ph. Ph.D., member of the LLLI Health Advisory Council, says this in his book Medications and Mothers’ Milk (12th ed.):
“Significant amounts of alcohol are secreted into breastmilk although it is not considered harmful to the infant if the amount and duration are limited. The absolute amount of alcohol transferred into milk is generally low.
Alcohol transfers readily into human milk. Alcohol is not stored in milk;
rather it enters and exits according to blood alcohol level. Levels of alcohol in milk peak at approximately 30 to 60 minutes following ingestion, then decline rapidly if no more is ingested.
Evidence shows that excessive consumption of alcoholic beverages during lactation affected infant development, such as weight and linear growth from 1 to 57 months.”
In terms of milk supply, new data now clearly demonstrate that alcohol
actually inhibits oxytocin release from the pituitary, thus impeding the let down process so that milk is not released from the breast as efficiently. One study showed a 23% reduction in milk release while alcohol is present in the mother’s blood. In another study, alcohol completely blocked the release of oxytocin.
While many people believe that dark beer enhances milk supply, that belief is purely anecdotal. If you choose to have one drink while nursing, it should be metabolized before your next nursing session (unless your infant is cluster feeding).
Standard drinks are measured as follows:
12 oz beer,
8-9 oz malt liquor,
5 oz wine, or
1.5 oz liquor.
Pump and Dump?
Because alcohol is not stored in milk, there is no need to pump and dump
to rid your milk of alcohol. However, nursing mothers may need to express
milk for comfort and to avoid milk stasis while too intoxicated to nurse. This milk can be used for a milk bath or diluted with milk that doesn’t contain alcohol and fed at another time.
If you are very concerned or intend to consume several servings of alcohol
in one sitting, you can pump ahead of time and store expressed breast milk to be used in case your infant needs to be fed while you have a drink or two. Then, when enough time has passed for alcohol levels to go down, you may resume breastfeeding.
● Alcohol test strips are NOT reliable.
● Infants should NEVER EVER EVER bed share with an adult who has been
● Chronic or heavy users of alcohol should not breastfeed.
● To calculate BAC based on weight and standard drink count: http://brown.edu/Student_Services/Health_Services/Health_Education/alcohol,_tobacco,_&_other_drugs/alcohol/alcohol_&_your_body.php