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Drinking Alcohol and Breastfeeding: What You Should Know

Many new moms, after abstaining from alcohol for an entire pregnancy, look forward to enjoying a cold adult beverage after delivering their babies. One of the biggest concerns for many moms who are looking forward to that celebratory beer or glass of wine is whether drinking alcohol and breastfeeding is safe for their infants.

There is good news for moms! Drinking alcohol and breastfeeding isn’t completely off the table as was once thought. Research now suggests that it is safe to consume one or two drinks and still breastfeed. Like anything else a nursing mother puts into her body, drinking alcohol and breastfeeding is something that should be done with care.

Let’s take a look at what research has shown in recent years, debunk a myth or two, and provide breastfeeding moms with an answer to this burning question!

What breastfeeding moms should know about drinking alcohol and breastfeeding

Drinking Alcohol and Breastfeeding: What You Should Know


The Ole Pump and Dump Theory 

I remember when I was nursing my first son, and there was a wedding to attend. I thought it would be nice to have a glass of wine with the rest of the grownups, but I was apprehensive because I did not want to harm my exclusively breastfed, then six-month-old.

I consulted an online search and immediately came across the term “pump and dump.” The notion was that, after consuming alcohol, it would be necessary to pump my milk and throw it away! I thought this seemed like a waste of liquid gold and decided I’d just skip the wine for the evening.

Many moms still believe that it is necessary to pump and dump their breastmilk after drinking alcohol. This is simply not necessary. Alcohol leaves breastmilk as it leaves mom’s blood. Like blood alcohol levels, the only thing that completely removes alcohol from breastmilk is time.

Chances are, if you are sober enough to legally drive a car, you are likely sober enough to breastfeed your baby.

Can it harm my baby?

In general, having one or two drinks on occasion is not going to be harmful to your baby. It is not recommended to drink regularly or to consume more than one or two drinks in a single sitting while breastfeeding. Typically, the biggest concern is that moms will be too intoxicated to safely care for their babies if they consume more than one or two drinks.

Just the Facts

  • It is generally considered safe to drink alcohol in moderation while breastfeeding; one or two drinks is considered safe.
  • If you can operate a motor vehicle safely, you can nurse your baby safely.
  • It takes one hour to metabolize one beer or one glass of wine. It is best to nurse your baby after this time has passed.
  • Daily consumption of alcohol by nursing mothers has been shown to cause delays in gross motor development and slow weight gain in the infant.
  • The best time to drink alcohol while breastfeeding is immediately after a nursing session. Then there will be adequate time for the alcohol to pass through mother’s blood and milk supply before the next nursing session. Of course, if your baby is into cluster feeding, it is best to skip imbibing at that time.
  • If you’re still worried about drinking alcohol and breastfeeding, consider giving baby a bottle of pumped breast milk instead.

Ashley is a stay-at-home-mom and a former English teacher. Ashley and her husband, Jeramey, have two young sons and one angel daughter. Ashley loves to chat about breastfeeding, babywearing, and blogging. Connect with Ashley at her personal blog, Hiccups and Heels where she writes about topics such as parenting, miscarriage, relationships, and humor.


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