Breastfeeding and Alcohol

Delicious frothy beer on a table on a warm summer evening

Can I drink while breastfeeding?

Breastfeeding and alcohol is a highly searched topic on Google. I am not here to condemn or condone. Also, if it wasn’t obvious already, I am not a medical professional or a lactation consultant of any kind. I’m just here to bring you the facts in a simple straightforward manner so you can make your own informed decision. I will also be sharing my personal experience on I how went about the subject.

Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links. This means that, at zero cost to you, I will earn an affiliate commission if you click through the link and finalize a purchase.

The American Association of Pediatrics recommends avoiding alcohol altogether if you are breastfeeding. With that being said, multiple sources including The Mayo Clinic, The Cleveland Clinic and the CDC give recommendations on how to safely consume alcohol while breastfeeding.

I first sought advice on the topic from my breastfeeding Facebook group (that really helped me navigate early motherhood, especially during the pandemic). I was given the link to this Kelly Mom article. If you would like to read about the topic in depth you can head straight to that article or I can give you the simplified version. Kelly Mom has a wealth of knowledge about all things breastfeeding and is ran by an IBCLC.

Based on the information provided to me in this article I determined I could have 2 beers (size and strength of drink matters) and still breastfeed. My first son was born in April so when he was a couple of months old it warmed up outside. I enjoy a nice frothy beer outside on a summer night. So it became somewhat of a ritual for me to have one (sometimes 2) beers outside once he had gone down for the first long stretch of the night (he didn’t sleep through the night until 13 months).

It got to the point where he was asleep by 8 and did not usually wake up until 1ish. I would have that delicious frothy beer on my back patio as the sun started to set as a way to give myself a little reward for a long day of being a mom to a young baby.

The world was pretty still at this time (the summer of 2020). Occasionally a couple of friends stopped over for an outdoor hang where we sat 6 feet apart and didn’t hug (so strange to think of how we went through that), but it was mostly just me and my husband (who doesn’t drink at all).

May 2020 having my first post baby beer.

How long after drinking can I breastfeed?

It was also part of my routine at this time to pump before bed. This was usually around 11 or midnight (I know I should have gone to sleep earlier, but needed my me time. I still have this problem) and I had finished my beer by 9. This milk was totally going in the fridge or freezer for future use because it had been at least 2 hours.

According to the well-researched article from Kelly Mom and supported by additional sources mentioned already 1-2 drinks does not appear to be harmful to baby through breastmilk. It is recommended to wait 2 hours before feeding or pumping milk that will be fed.

If for some reason you end up feeding your baby before this just know only 2% of the alcohol ends up in your breastmilk. One of the moms in my Facebook group said her pediatrician told her it was like “throwing a shot glass into a pool”. That has stuck with me. Warning, that isn’t a scientific to scale analogy by the way, but I think it helps to grasp the concept. Of course, an older baby would be able to metabolize the alcohol better than a newborn (who also would be feeding much more often).

Pumping and dumping does not help to get rid of the alcohol in your breastmilk faster. Only time will do that. There really is no reason to pump and dump. If you can wait 2 hours to pump then your milk should be good for consumption unless you were drinking excessively. In that case your milk that was not safe for consumption can be saved for milk baths, to use on skin or to have breast milk jewelry made.

You could also test your milk with alcohol testing strips for breast milk to determine if it is safe for consumption. If you are away from your baby and are drinking continuously, you may need to pump to relieve engorgement and that milk would be not safe for consumption. In that case you would be “pumping and dumping” (or saving for another use). If you feed or pump right before or right after you have a drink and can wait 2 hours to feed or pump again there is no reason to pump and dump.

May 2020 enjoying a special beer from my good friend’s brewery Terrestrial Brewing Company in Cleveland, Ohio.

Does alcohol increase my supply?

You may have heard that alcohol, specifically beer, can increase your milk supply, but that is not true. Regular alcohol consumption can actually decrease your milk supply. If If you want to consume something for a healthy milk supply always drink plenty of water. There are also other ways to naturally increase your supply such as breastfeeding more often and pumping and feeding from both sides. Certain foods and herbs such as brewers yeast (yes, it is in all beer, but the alcohol would contradict it’s benefits), oats, fenugreek, fennel, and others may increase production, though research is limited.

Considering all this, it seems to be okay to allow yourself to unwind and have a couple drinks while breastfeeding as long as you wait about 2 hours before breastfeeding your baby or pumping milk to give them. Just don’t over do it, but if you do (no judgement here) just make sure you don’t feed that milk to the baby. Also, make sure you have someone sober to take care of your baby. Having a freezer stash (even small) or some supplemental formula on hand would be helpful when you want a night out (or in) with more than just a couple drinks. Cheers!

I also enjoy a cold Pinot Grigio on a warm summer day in my favorite antique wine glass (with my favorite wine glass tag to add a little joy even though it’s only me).

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