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Disclaimer: The information in this post is for educational purposes only. I am not a doctor. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. None of the opinions are meant to diagnose or treat any disease or illness. You should always consult your healthcare provider.

Beer and Breastfeeding – Does Drinking Beer Increase Breast Milk Supply?

When my friend Andrea was breastfeeding her littlest, I remember the struggle she had to keep up her milk supply. She tried breastfeeding tea, and tripled her water consumption. She rested more and added brewer’s yeast to her oatmeal. She also tried something I’d never heard of as a mama of five: she tried drinking a glass of beer. What is the deal with beer and breastfeeding?


Now in my friend’s case, as it has any time she’s tried to drink it, drinking beer gave her nothing more than an upset tummy. She’s not a fan of the malty brew, and that didn’t change as she sipped, then gulped once or twice, then sipped again. In her case, she did feel relaxed for a few minutes, but she didn’t see an increase in her milk supply. Yet many “old wives” promote the tale that drinking beer helps with the milk supply of a nursing mother.

Beer and Breastfeeding – Does Drinking Beer Increase Milk Supply?

When considering trying any type of alcohol or drink as a nursing mom, it’s always most important to consider baby’s safety and health, both short-term and long-term. American baby care advisors assert the importance of remembering that drinking alcohol can have a negative effect on your baby. Science has shown that the alcohol level in your baby’s milk is equal to the amount in your own bloodstream, and this can be very dangerous for a baby’s system, that is undeveloped to process the substance. There have also been studies asserting that babies actually take in less milk from mothers who drink wine or beer.

One scientist, Julie Mennella of Philadelphia, has done extensive studies on alcohol and breast milk production. Her findings indicate that drinking alcohol can actually negatively affect the breastfeeding hormones oxytocin and prolactin, essentially throwing them out of sync in their jobs to help with breastfeeding. Thomas W. Hale has also observed that while beer may raise the prolactin levels in a nursing mom, it appears to be barley that brings this effect; beer’s ethanol component actually reduces her breast milk production. So “drinking a beer to help with milk supply” does not seem to help with nursing. Instead, beer and breastfeeding is far less effective than the strong sucking of a healthy baby, which stimulates letdown and milk production.

One interesting study by Mennella and Pepino even found that nursing mothers with a history of family alcohol abuse, had a more intense hormonal reaction to alcohol consumption, but that they nursed more frequently (perhaps in reaction based on family history).

If you do choose to have a drink while in this breastfeeding season, advisors recommend waiting at least two hours before nursing baby, so that the blood alcohol level drops. Eating before a drink can also lower the alcohol level in your bloodstream. From one mama to another, before trying any method to help with breastfeeding your little one, read, read, read, and seek wisdom on the best methods to increase yours and your baby’s health.

*I am not a physician, but a mom who’s been blessed to breastfeed five healthy babies, and who loves to read and study to help other moms have a successful and fulfilling nursing journey. Please seek the advice of a trusted medical practitioner before making changes in your breastfeeding relationship.

What are your thoughts on beer and breastfeeding?

Angela Sackett is a wife and home-educating mom of five fast-growing, once-breastfed kiddos, as well as a foodie, photographer, and speaker, but before all a daughter of the King. She’s passionate about encouraging women and especially moms, and she writes at Sal et Lux and Dancing With My Father.


  1. Lady Hutchfield says

    I suspect the old wives tale is based on the idea that beer was considered a safe alternative to dairy milk or water, since both were often contaminated with bacteria that could cause severe illness and even death. (I’m referring back 150+ years in western history) “Ale”, would be comparetively clean: it would hydrate the nursing mama and probably was helpful in bringing up a woman’s milk supply, along with adding some much needed electrolyte supplemention.

    We now have clean tap water (much cleaner than it was before folks understood how to purify water) and pasturized milk (which kills bacteria that can cause illness) and so many safe options for nourishing ourselves…

    So, whether or not drinking a beer a day helps one’s milk supply, the fact is that in bygone days it WAS helpful.

    That’s my two sense worth 🙂

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