After 9 or so months without alcohol during pregnancy, you may find yourself wanting an adult beverage after your baby arrives. Good news! Research says drinking alcohol in moderation is safe while breastfeeding. Just like many substances, alcohol does pass to your breastmilk, but staying under the recommended limit is not likely to have any short-term or long-term effects for you or your baby.
What amount is safe?
One drink per day is considered to be safe for both you and your baby. If you want to be extra careful, alcohol will peak in your breastmilk about 30-60 minutes after consumption or maybe slightly longer if you have food in your belly. To minimize your baby’s exposure to the alcohol, you can choose to drink right after nursing or pumping so that by the time your baby is ready to eat again, the alcohol will be mostly gone from your system and your breastmilk.
What are the benefits?
For all people, including breastfeeding mamas, there are very few benefits to drinking alcohol. Not drinking alcohol is always the safest option. You may have heard that certain components of beer can increase milk supply, but there are other, more effective ways to increase your supply like nursing or pumping more frequently and adequate milk removal. Alcohol can actually decrease your milk supply if you drink too much.
What are the risks?
More than 2 drinks per day can decrease your milk supply and breastfeeding duration and could have adverse health effects for you and your baby. The long-term effects of excessive drinking while breastfeeding are unclear but heavy drinking could negatively impact your baby’s growth and development. Short-term, excessive drinking could cause agitation or poor sleep patterns for your baby. Additionally, it can be unsafe to hold and care for your baby if you have had a little bit too much to drink. You know your limits with alcohol better than anyone. If you find yourself a little tipsy, see if your partner or another uninhibited adult can step in to feed your baby some pumped milk. It’s better to ask for help rather than trying to hold and care for your baby when it’s not safe. If you’re ever in doubt and think you may have gone over the limit, pumping and dumping is an option until the alcohol has cleared your system. But remember that pumping and dumping is not necessary unless you overdo it.
Want more? Check out our research-based online breastfeeding course for expectant and new parents. We offer practical tips and solutions for your breastfeeding journey so you can feed your baby with confidence and meet your goals!