Is it okay to breastfeed after a few alcoholic drinks?

After months of abstaining from alcohol during pregnancy, breastfeeding new mums may want to relax with an occasional alcoholic beverage. But how soon after drinking alcohol is it okay to breastfeed? How will alcohol affect the milk? 

We asked Linda Hill, International Board-Certified Lactation Consultant to help answer this question about breastfeeding and alcohol.

 A percentage of the alcohol in mum’s blood will affect the breastmilk, so moderation is key. Also, every mum’s metabolism is different, so there is not a universal answer for breastfeeding mums on how much alcohol will get into her breastmilk, and how long it will stay there. Pumping or draining the breasts of their milk will not eliminate the alcohol.


That being said, breastfeeding mums deserve the opportunity to relax and enjoy the occasional drink, so here are some basic guidelines surrounding breastfeeding and alcohol:


How much alcohol during breastfeeding is okay and how often?


  • Adult metabolism of alcohol is approximately 30 ml/3 hours, as a general rule of thumb, but keep in mind every woman’s metabolism is different. Metabolism varies from person to person depending on how much they have had to eat, their weight, and the type of alcohol consumed.


  • The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommendation for breastfeeding mothers is “ingestion of alcoholic beverages should be minimised and limited to an occasional intake, the equivalent of a 360 ml beer, 120 ml glass of wine, or 30 millilitres of hard liquor – but that mum should wait at least two hours per drink before breastfeeding.


  • Alcohol passes freely into mother's breastmilk and has been found to peak about 30-60 minutes after consumption or 60-90 minutes when taken with food. The best time to have an alcoholic drink is during or directly after a feeding to allow maximum time to metabolise the alcohol.


Going out for a special occasion while breastfeeding?


Have an upcoming wedding or party and want to indulge a little more? Make sure to have extra breastmilk set aside for your baby that was pumped earlier.


After a few hours being away from baby, your breasts may become full and need to be relieved of that fullness. Simply do a quick manual expression or pump at some point during the night to relieve the pressure in the breasts.


It’s important to note “pumping and dumping” does not speed the elimination of alcohol from the breastmilk. Alcohol can continue to pass through the body and back into the breastmilk supply.


Still not sure if you should feed your breastmilk to your baby?


Over time your body will naturally metabolise the alcohol out of your breastmilk but everyone metabolises alcohol differently. If you’re unsure if your breastmilk still contains alcohol or not, and if you want to test the milk pumped the night before, Milkscreen test strips let you test your breastmilk for alcohol.


Breastmilk is expressed onto the strips, or in a small sample cup, and after 2 minutes the strip will change colour if alcohol is present in the breastmilk (at or above 13.1 mg/dL).


Learn more about UpSpring’s Milkscreen test to detect alcohol in breastmilk.

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