After carrying a baby—and therefore denying yourself alcoholic beverages for nine months—you’re likely pretty ready to enjoy an adult drink once baby is born. Unfortunately if you’re breastfeeding, even once the baby is out, enjoying the occasional drink or two does require a little bit of knowledge and planning.
Notice that I didn’t say drinking is out completely for breastfeeding mothers. No, nursing mamas can absolutely enjoy an alcoholic drink once in awhile. As long as the drinking is done very occasionally and responsibly, all will be well.
The trick to drinking safely while breastfeeding is education. Therefore, I am going to use this article to help educate you on the ins and outs of consuming alcohol while breastfeeding.
The Effects of Alcohol on Baby and Mother
While only a small amount of alcohol actually makes it into breast milk, it is important to remember that by drinking and nursing, you may transfer some alcohol to your baby’s system. This can lead to drowsiness, deep sleep, weakness, and (in extreme cases) abnormal weight gain and slow development in baby.
There is also a chance too much alcohol can cause a decreased milk ejection reflex in mother, meaning less successful nursing sessions.
Because of all this, it is important to drink only small amounts at a time—nursing mothers should avoid becoming drunk—and do what you can to ensure none of the alcohol makes it into your baby’s system. Luckily, there are ways to go about this.
Things to Consider Before Drinking
Before drinking, you will want to have a plan.
Know going in that you will need to stop after one or two drinks, as the more alcohol you consume, the longer it takes to clear the body. You will also need to plan to wait until the alcohol has been sufficiently cleared from your body before nursing, which will likely mean pumping in advance in order to have something to feed baby during this waiting period.
During your planning, you may want to keep in mind that heavier people can metabolize alcohol more efficiently than lighter people, so size should be taken into consideration. Lastly, it is worth knowing that older babies metabolize alcohol much more efficiently than newborns, and newborn livers could be damaged by even small amounts of alcohol.
What to Do After Drinking
As mentioned earlier, you’ll need to wait for the alcohol to leave your system after you’ve enjoyed an adult beverage and before breastfeeding your little one. This usually takes three to four hours.
There is no benefit to pumping and dumping, as the alcohol will leave your breast milk as it leaves your bloodstream, and pumping will not help the alcohol leave your system any more quickly. That said, some women find that their breasts become too full during the post-drinking waiting period. In this case, pumping or hand-expressing and disposing of a small amount of milk can be helpful.
It is important to note that due to the sleep-inducing effect of adult beverages, co-sleeping with alcohol in your system is never recommended. This is especially true if you do happen to drink a little too much, but it’s always best to follow this rule even when only small amounts of alcohol are consumed.