Breastfeeding and Alcohol: The Facts

Breastfeeding and Alcohol: The Facts

The festive season is upon us, bringing with it an avalanche of event invitations. Be it a BBQ or a Chrissie party, a get-together with family or a catch up with your girlfriends, the chances are good that the corks will be popping.

Many, many breastfeeding mums wonder whether or not they're able to enjoy their favourite tipple and still breastfeed. The short answer? Yes. The longer answer? Still yes! But as this can be an emotionally charged issue with plenty of varying opinions, we got in touch with an expert!

Boob whispererNatasha Lunn is an experienced IBCLC (International Board Certified Lactation Consultant) who works with mums to help them meet their breastfeeding goals. We quizzed Tash on alcohol and breastfeeding and how to enjoy a drink safely as a boobing mama.

Breastfeeding and alcohol: the facts

Before we kick off, let's just be clear that NOT DRINKING AT ALL, is always going to be the safest option for parents. This is because drinking, especially heavily, will impact your ability to parent. Whether you're bottle feeding or breastfeeding, being intoxicated makes it very difficult, and at times, dangerous to care for a baby. This is especially true if you bed share. A parent who has been drinking should never share a bed with their baby.

Drinking heavily/to the point where you are drunk and enjoying a drink responsibly however are two very different things. Parents, including breastfeeding mothers, can enjoy a drink safely, without putting their baby at risk.

Dr Jack Newman, paediatrician and one of the leaders in breastfeeding medicine and education says this in his resource 'Breastfeeding Myths'; "Reasonable alcohol intake should not be discouraged. As is the case with most drugs, very little alcohol comes out in the milk. The mother can take some alcohol and continue breastfeeding as she normally does. Prohibiting alcohol is another way we make life unnecessarily restrictive for nursing mothers."

You can click through to read more from Dr Newman about the amount of alcohol that actually transfers to breastmilk (spoiler alert; it's minuscule)

So what does 'reasonable' equate to? Tash Lunn explains it this way;  "If you're safe to drive, meaning that your blood alcohol level is under 0.05you're safe to breastfeed. This is because the alcohol content of breastmilk is the same as that in your blood." The number of drinks you can have and remain under the limit will vary hugely depending on a variety of factors, including the alcohol content of your chosen tipple.

Try and find out exactly what a standard drink actually looks like; it's very easy to mistake a bottle of beer or a large glass of wine as one drink, when in actual fact, it may be closer to two. If you can, choose lower alcohol options as these will usually be closer to a standard drink than their full strength counterparts.

Image source: The Women's

 Is there a 'safer' time to drink?

If you're planning on enjoying a beverage (and your baby is in a semi-predictable feeding pattern), the optimum time to drink is WHILE breastfeeding or straight after. This is because it takes about 30 minutes for alcohol to hit your bloodstream. As a general rule of thumb, it will then take around two hours for the average woman to get rid of the alcohol from 1 standard alcoholic drink.

If you want to keep track of things more accurately, The Australian Breastfeeding Associationhas a nifty app called FeedSafe which helps breastfeeding mothers to work out when they're 'safe' to feed.

Should I 'pump and dump'?

In short, NO! 'Pumping and dumping’ (expressing breastmilk and throwing it away) will not reduce the amount of alcohol in your breastmilk. You also do not need to do this once the alcohol has passed through your system – alcohol is not ‘stored’ in the milk in your breasts, just as it doesn’t remain in your blood. Once the alcohol is out of your blood, it will be out of your breastmilk. It's also important to remember that any milk you DO pump when you've been drinking will contain alcohol which will not dissipate (worth noting should you plan on using it at a later date).

There's you have it! The facts on alcohol and breastfeeding. Remember, how you approach party season is completely up to you! If you plan on having a drink or two, enjoy it! Feel better expressing some milk beforehand? Why not try out the Haakaa to make pumping effortless!

You can find out more about the Haakaa HERE

Or check out the rest of our breastfeeding resources HERE