Here’s What Really Happens If You Drink Alcohol And Breastfeed


You’re on vacation with your baby and a chilled glass of rosé is calling your name.

Do you a) opt for a lemonade to save stares from complete strangers when they pass judgment or b) order yourself a glass of ice-cold goodness (because God knows motherhood has been hard enough without having to give it up too).

Many breastfeeding parents will have faced a dilemma about whether to drink alcohol and then breastfeed at some point.

There’s a lot of conflicting advice out there – and when words like ‘harmful’ and ‘your baby’ are used in the same sentence, it can understandably cause a lot of worry and guilt.

But the reality is much more nuanced than simply saying: drinking alcohol and then breastfeeding is bad for your baby. Like everything on this planet, it’s all about moderation.

Comedian Katherine Ryan, 39, recently won plaudits from many – but not all – mums after posting a photo of herself enjoying a glass of what appeared to be white wine while breastfeeding his baby.

“Thank you for showing that it’s okay to drink wine while breastfeeding,” one person commented in response to the photo.

Another added: “Yes! I remember after I had my daughter I was really struggling with the boyfriend (breastfeeding) and the breastfeeding support manager said “it’s ok, drink some wine and relax at the end of the day if you can”. It’s a green light for me.

But not everyone was convinced. “Why would anyone risk their little baby’s liver having to deal with alcohol,” another user commented. “Alcohol in a baby isn’t ‘good’ or smart!! Expressing!!”

So, is it okay to drink and breastfeed or not?

Health and breastfeeding experts in the UK – we are talking about the NHS, La Leche League – agree that when a breastfeeding parent drinks occasionally and limits their intake, the amount of alcohol their baby receives will not is not harmful. And research backs it up.

“The absolute amount of alcohol transferred into milk is generally low, and while we constantly review the research, existing studies indicate that occasional moderate drinking is not considered harmful for breastfed babies,” it read. on the La Leche League website.

We know that alcohol can pass into breast milk (quite easily) and then into a nursing baby, but a glass of wine is very unlikely to cause any problems.

According to NCT, the mother’s blood alcohol should reach 300mg/100ml before the baby is mildly sedated. To put this in comparison, 80mg/100ml would not meet drink-driving limits in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

If you’re worried, the NHS recommends waiting at least two hours after drinking before letting your baby breastfeed as the alcohol should be out of your system by then. Alcohol levels are usually highest in breast milk 30 to 60 minutes after being consumed.

Katherine Fisher, who has worked as a lactation consultant for 35 years, told HuffPost UK: “It’s completely normal for you to drink alcohol while breastfeeding. But if you abuse alcohol, you are putting your baby at risk.

She adds that this would mean “you drink alcohol all day, every day”.

In the UK it is known that regularly drinking above the recommended limits – that is 14 units per week, for your information – can be harmful to you and your baby. Consuming more than two glasses a day is therefore not recommended.

Besides the obvious effects on your health, drinking alcohol above moderate levels has been linked to sleep and developmental problems in babies. It can also reduce your milk supply, which means your baby gets less food and can therefore impact growth.

There is also the fear that you will not be able to take care of your child properly if he is intoxicated. Studies have linked alcohol consumption to an increased risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).

So what can you do if you go out?

If you’re going out in the evening, it can be helpful to express milk ahead of time so your little one has enough food to feed themselves and doesn’t need an emergency refill in the middle of the night. .

Sometimes you go out for “one” drink, only to have one drink turn into three or four. If so, you may want to avoid breastfeeding for two to three hours for every drink you have. The NHS recommends doing this to allow time for the alcohol to leave your breast milk.

But even if you were to do an emergency feed at 3 a.m., it’s worth noting that one study suggested that even in a theoretical case of heavy drinking, babies wouldn’t be subjected to amounts of alcohol. clinically relevant alcohol.

Some people believe you can “pump and flush” – where you express after drinking to flush alcohol-tainted milk out of your system – but that’s a myth.

As long as you have alcohol in your system, any newly produced milk will also contain alcohol. Milk levels will drop as the alcohol level in your body drops.

“With social drinking or going to a party, you don’t have to pump and dump or any of those things,” Fisher says.

You might however find it helpful to pump if you haven’t breastfed for a while and your breasts are too full – as engorgement is never fun.



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