If you do want to have a drink or two while breastfeeding it's best to know all the facts.
If you are new to breastfeeding or new to breastfeeding again, it can be hard to know (or remember) the do’s and don’ts when it comes to alcohol.
Christmas is often a time where people want to have a drink
and enjoy the festive holidays. Some mums don’t and that’s OK too.
But, if you do want to have a drink or two while breastfeeding it's best to know all the facts.
And we have everything you need to know.
Avoid it in the first few weeks:
It’s best to avoid drinking alcohol until your baby is more than one month old. In the first month, you and your baby are getting used to breastfeeding. This is called establishing breastfeeding.
Your supply of breast milk is established in the early weeks. This works by supply and demand. The more you breastfeed, the more milk your body produces. This is why it is important not to miss a breastfeed in the first month.
Your baby will be feeding very often. It may be difficult for you to predict when your baby will need their next feed. If you drink alcohol, your baby could need another feed while there is still alcohol in your system.
Breastfeeding is usually established by the time your baby is one month old.
After the first month:
If you choose to drink alcohol once breastfeeding is established, there are steps you can take to avoid passing alcohol to your baby through your milk:
- feed your baby before drinking
- express milk beforehand if you plan to drink more than two standard drinks
- wait 2 hours after each standard drink before breastfeeding your baby
- drink no more than 11 standard drinks in a week
- spread your drinks over the week
- have at least 2 alcohol-free days per week
When you drink alcohol, some will pass from your blood supply to your breast milk. Waiting 2 hours after finishing 1 standard drink gives your body time to get rid of the alcohol. Only time makes alcohol leave your body and your milk.
Drinking water or expressing breast milk will not clear the alcohol from your body any faster. Expressing breast milk and then throwing it away is sometimes called ‘pumping and dumping’.
You may not be able to take care of your baby properly if you are affected by alcohol.
Alcohol and your breast milk:
How many hours after drinking until your breast milk no longer contains alcohol
- 1 standard drink - 2 hours
- 2 standard drinks - 4 hours
- 3 standard drinks - 6 hours
- 4 standard drinks - 8 hours
- 5 standard drinks - 10 hours
This is a guide and the amount of alcohol in your breast milk will depend on different factors. These include your weight, how fast you drink and if you have eaten etc.
Research shows breastfeeding after one or two standard drinks can cause some disruption to your baby’s sleep. This means they may sleep for shorter periods than normal. It can also affect their quality of sleep. At this level of drinking (1 or 2 drinks), the concentration of alcohol reaching the baby through the milk is about 30 times less than what is consumed by the mother. We can’t say for sure if there are any long-term effects on your baby from exposure to very small amounts of alcohol in breast milk. The best way to avoid exposing your baby to alcohol in breast milk, even in small amounts, is to follow the guidelines above.
What is a standard drink?
In Ireland, a standard drink has about 10 grams of pure alcohol in it. Examples of a standard drink:
- A pub measure of spirits (35.5ml).
- A small glass of wine (12.5% volume).
- A half pint of normal beer.
- An alcopop (275ml bottle).
- A bottle of wine at 12.5% alcohol contains about 7 standard drinks.
Tips to help you prepare for a night out:
- Feed/Express beforehand
- Breastfeed before you drink alcohol
- Express enough milk before drinking so that your babysitter can feed your baby. Express milk beforehand if you plan to drink more than one or two standard drinks. Your baby can have expressed milk if they need a feed while you have alcohol in your system.
- Have expressed milk ready in case you need it while you’re waiting for alcohol to leave your system.
- Arrange for a babysitter to care for your baby and stay overnight if necessary
When out, limit the amount of alcohol you drink by drinking water in between drinks. Express milk to relieve any breast fullness or engorgement. This breast milk will contain alcohol so there is no need to save it.
Laura Doyle, Mum of 4. Kyle 9, Noa Belle 4, Briar 2 and Milla 12 months. Breastfeeder, co-sleeper, coffee drinker. Staying positive and inspired by the chaos of it all. Writer and blogger at www.lovelifeandlittleones.com.