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Is It Safe to Drink Alcohol While Breastfeeding?

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  • Written By: M.C. Huguelet
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 17 September 2016
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While most people are aware that it is unsafe for women to drink alcohol while pregnant, knowledge of the medical effects of consuming alcohol while breastfeeding is not nearly so widespread. Most medical experts agree that breastfeeding mothers must be extremely cautious in regards to alcohol consumption. This is because alcohol passed through the milk during feedings can harm an infant, and also because alcohol consumption can affect milk production. Nursing mothers do not necessarily have to give up alcohol completely, however. By using advanced preparation, they can enjoy an occasional alcoholic beverage without harming their baby or themselves.

Most medical experts agree that drinking alcohol while breastfeeding can negatively affect both child and mother. It is estimated that as much as one-fifth of the alcohol present in a nursing mother’s body can be passed to her baby through her milk. As an infant’s liver is very small and not yet fully developed, even seemingly insignificant amounts of alcohol can be difficult to process. In the short term, alcohol can cause an infant to become abnormally drowsy, and may disrupt his normal sleep habits. If he regularly ingests alcohol via the breast milk, the development of his motor skills may even be impaired.

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Drinking alcohol while breastfeeding can also affect a mother’s milk production levels. Regular alcohol consumption can cause milk production levels to be substantially lowered. This may impede a nursing mother’s ability to provide her baby with the nutrition he needs.

Mothers do not necessarily need to completely abstain from alcohol while breastfeeding, however. By being prepared, they can occasionally enjoy alcohol without harming themselves or their baby. Mothers who plan to drink should pump and safely store their breast milk in advance, and feed their infant this reserved milk until all traces of alcohol have left their bodies. It is important to remember that it generally takes approximately two and a half to three hours for each alcoholic drink to leave the body. Therefore, enough breast milk should be stored in advance to feed one’s baby for the duration of the period that alcohol is exiting the system.

Parents and caregivers should note that even if care is taken to keep the breast milk free of alcohol, drinking can pose additional risks to infants. A caregiver’s ability to perform simple tasks, such as holding or diapering an infant, can become impaired when large amounts of alcohol have been consumed. Therefore, alcohol should be consumed in moderation, and those who are struggling with alcohol dependency should seek appropriate support and treatment.

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ddljohn
Post 3

Didn't a woman get arrested last year for breastfeeding her baby while drinking? I remember hearing about it on the news. It seems crazy that someone would get arrested for it, but at the same time, no responsible mother would do that. Mothers know that whatever they are eating and drinking, it goes to their baby too through breastmilk. I realize that some women breastfeed for a long time but mothers just need to be patient and put their children first or take the necessary precautions. It's okay to use formula when necessary. Formula is better than spiked milk I would say.

ZipLine
Post 2

@discographer-- My doctor told me that it's best not to drink while breastfeeding. But she also said that an occasional beer or two is okay as long as I don't breastfeed my baby for three to four hours afterward.

So I think you'd be fine by next day but that also depends on how much you drink. You certainly don't want to overdo it. The more you drink, the longer it will take for the alcohol to leave your system.

They say that the amount of alcohol in breastmilk is about the same as the alcohol level in the blood. So that's a lot. If you're still feeling the effects of the alcohol, then you definitely shouldn't be breastfeeding.

discographer
Post 1

I've heard that everyone is a little different and alcohol leaves people's body in different time frames. So if I pump and store my breastmilk a day ahead, will the alcohol be completely out of my system by the next day?

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