Can I Drink and Breastfeed?

Q&A: Can I Drink Alcohol & Breastfeed?

Many new moms want to know about alcohol consumption and breastfeeding. Can I drink and breastfeed? Is it alright to have a drink while breastfeeding? Is pumping and dumping really safe? What might happen if a new mom breastfeeds after enjoying one glass of wine? It’s a long nine months of forgoing a glass of wine with dinner or a Bloody Mary on vacation, but breastfeeding moms must know the dangers of alcohol consumption while nursing.

Just Say No

Medical professionals agree the best thing for a new mother when she’s nursing is to say no to any sort of alcoholic beverage. There simply isn’t enough evidence to support the safety of alcohol and breast milk. Medical professionals agree there is no safe level of alcohol in breast milk before the level is problematic for a new baby. Just say no. Everything a nursing mother eats and drinks passes directly into her breast milk.  It’s important for breastfeeding mothers to be exceptionally careful about all their babies might consume.

Wait for Alcohol to Pass

It takes hours for alcohol to clear from breast milk. If a new mother simply cannot resist having a drink, she must know how long to wait until the alcohol clears her milk before she can safely breastfeed. The numbers are different based on the kind of beverage a woman consumes.

  • It takes approximately 2-3 hours to clear each:
    • 2 oz of liquor
    • 8 oz of wine
    • 12 oz of beer

If a nursing mother wants to have a drink, the best time to do it is right after she finishes nursing her baby so the alcohol has more time to pass through her milk before the next feeding. It’s also wise to wait a little longer to be completely sure the breast milk is clear before feeding the baby again. Storing breast milk to use during this time is a wise idea.

Pumping and Dumping: The Truth

The old assumption that a new mother can drink, pump her milk, and then dump it out before feeding her baby again is not at all accurate. It doesn’t clear the alcohol from a woman’s body. It just gets rid of milk, which makes pumping and dumping more than pointless. But if the mother just waits a few hours, it allows the alcohol to clear from her body and produce breast milk that is just fine.

The Risk of Alcohol Consumption in Nursing

It’s not just a new mother who is at risk when she drinks and nurses. If she’s off even by an hour with her calculations, a baby might be drinking heavily without its parents even knowing. One alcoholic beverage per day consumed by a baby can significantly delay the child’s fine motor skills and brain development. It’s not worth drinking while nursing knowing this kind of problem is a risk for the baby.

Alcohol Addiction and Nursing 

A glass of red wine can be good for heart health, and there’s nothing wrong with safely consuming alcoholic beverages in moderation. It’s when consumption surpasses the moderate stage that people need to worry about their health and possible addiction.

If a woman is struggling with alcoholism while nursing, the best thing is for the new mother to stop breastfeeding her baby immediately. It’s not safe to breastfeed a baby when the mother is an addict. Treatment is available for new moms, and it’s recommended that women find the help they need so they can get their lives in order and raise their children properly.

Addiction Treatment for New Moms

Now is the time for new moms to talk to their doctor about their addiction, to look for rehabilitation, and to find a sponsor to help them get through this difficult time. Speaking to their doctor is imperative not only because their doctor can guide a woman in the right direction for help recovering but because addiction after giving birth could indicate an additional problem such as postpartum depression. If a woman suffers from PPD, she might turn to drinking thinking it might numb the pain or help her overcome her feelings of depression.

Breastfeeding and alcohol is a dangerous combination. If a woman is struggling, she must stop nursing immediately and seek help. New babies need their mothers to raise them, to teach them, and to put their health needs first. It’s time to speak to the doctor, find the help she needs, and lean on her family for support during the recovery process.

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Kylah Strohte is the Editor-In-Chief, as well as a frequent Staff Writer, at Addicted To Alcohol. She has extensive experience in publishing, journalism, and marketing, with a focus in the Addiction Treatment and Substance Abuse industries, among others. Kylah earned her BA in Linguistics from University of Maryland, College Park, class of 2012. She now lives in Los Angeles, and is the Marketing Chair on the Board of the LA Terps UMD Alumni Association. Kylah writes articles for various websites and blogs related to addiction treatment, as well as helps manage a 24/7 addiction treatment helpline.