Is it Safe to Drink Alcohol as a Nursing Mother?
While mothers are advised to avoid all alcohol during pregnancy because of severe risks to baby, they have more flexibility to safely drink in moderation while breastfeeding. If choosing to drink alcohol while nursing, here are some important tips to remember.
First, understand that alcohol DOES pass into breast milk. Therefore, timing between intake and feedings is crucial. Since it generally takes 2-3 hours for the body to metabolize one drink (12 ounces beer, 5 ounces wine or 1.5 ounces distilled spirits), having an alcoholic drink immediately following a feeding can be the perfect strategy. This gives the alcohol time to metabolize during a typical feeding cycle, so when baby is ready to nurse again the drink would be out of mom's system.
Next, keep in mind that a person's size impacts how quickly the alcohol will be metabolized. For smaller women, this process tends to take longer. Additionally, the more alcohol consumed the longer it takes to metabolize. Also keep in mind strategies such as drinking extra water, having a cup of coffee or resting will not help metabolize alcohol any faster.
While it's not necessary to “pump and dump” breast milk after drinking alcohol, it can be beneficial if a normal feeding would occur while waiting for the alcohol to completely metabolize. This helps prevent engorgement while keeping milk supply consistent.
As a nursing mother, being able to safely enjoy a glass of wine on date night or a beer with friends is just another way of making breastfeeding more approachable. While this is true, each mother should weigh the risks versus benefits on an individualized basis to see if incorporating any alcohol while breastfeeding is right for her lifestyle.