Busting some myths about drinking alcohol during breastfeeding

"Can I drink when I am breastfeeding?"

It's been 9 long months and you've given up a lot of things. Now that your baby is here, you may be wondering, "Can I drink while breastfeeding?"

According to lactation consultants and pediatricians, one of the most common questions they get from expectant or breastfeeding mums is “Can I drink alcohol during breastfeeding?”. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) states that nursing mothers can have an occasional alcoholic drink—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.


Not all breastfeeding mums are the same

Because every breastfeeding mother is unique so is the rate at which her body metabolises alcohol from her breastmilk. Metabolism depends on many factors including body weight, type of alcohol consumed and food intake.

Draining the breast will not expedite the elimination of the alcohol from the breastmilk as alcohol can continue to pass through the body and back into the breastmilk supply. Over time your body will naturally metabolise the alcohol out of your breastmilk.


Myths surrounding alcohol and breastfeeding

Myth: Pumping & dumping eliminates alcohol from breastmilk.

Reality: Despite what all your mum friends have told you, the common practice of ‘pumping and dumping’ or draining the breasts does not remove alcohol from breastmilk. Breastmilk is made from blood so as long as you have alcohol in your blood then there could be alcohol in your breastmilk. Drinking a lot of water, resting, or drinking coffee will not speed up the rate of elimination of the alcohol from your body. With time, your blood alcohol level will decline and your body will naturally rid the breastmilk of the alcohol.


Myth: After consuming alcohol, you should just wait a few hours before breastfeeding.

Reality: It would be nice if everything were predictable but as you know from your baby, there's not a lot of predictability in life! Because every woman’s metabolism is different, there is no set waiting time that is right for everyone. Too many factors influence metabolism including mum’s weight, amount of alcohol consumed, amount of food eaten, etc. Depending on these factors, it could take 30 minutes for one woman’s system to rid itself of the alcohol and 5 hours for another. Testing your breastmilk for alcohol is the only way to know if the alcohol has left your system or not when using alcohol during breastfeeding.


Myth: If you are sober enough to drive, then you are okay to breastfeed.

Reality: Though you may pass a breathalyser, that shouldn't be your test. Even though a woman may think or feel she is okay to drive after consuming alcohol, the alcohol may still be present in her breastmilk.


Myth: Just one or two drinks is fine.

Reality: Even small amounts of alcohol can pass through the body into breastmilk. Always keep in mind your baby’s age when considering the effects of alcohol. Even a tiny amount of alcohol you drink can affect a newborn as their liver is still very immature. Until an infant is about 3 months old they can only detoxify alcohol at about half the rate of an adult.


Other resources for alcohol and breastfeeding

 Mayo Clinic: Infant and Toddler Health: I'm Breast-feeding. Is it OK to Drink Alcohol?


American Association of Pediatrics: Conditions That Are Not Contraindications to Breastfeeding.


La Leche League



If you're concerned about alcohol and breastfeeding, Milkscreen is an easy-to-use test that will show if alcohol is present in your breastmilk. To use Milkscreen, simply express a few drops of breastmilk onto the test strip and if the colour pad changes colour at 2 minutes then alcohol is present. Finally an answer to mums’ questions regarding alcohol and breastfeeding!


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