Breastfeeding and Alcohol

Pregnant women are advised to abstain from alcohol use while pregnant, as we know that consuming alcohol while pregnant is harmful for the unborn baby. But, is it okay to have a beer, glass of wine or *insert favorite libation here* and breastfeed?

The answer is yes, but only if drinking is kept to a minimum and done sparingly. As a general rule of thumb, this means limiting consumption to one drink and waiting at least two hours for it to metabolize. Having a drink no more than 2-3 times per week is also recommended.

             One drink =

  • 12 oz. of 5% beer
  • 5 oz. of 11% wine
  • 1.5 oz. of 40% liquor

Alcohol is classified as an L3, “probably safe” with relation to breastfeeding. Frequent, heavy consumption of alcohol is contraindicated and not medically advised with breastfeeding. Alcohol is a depressant, which can cause behavioral changes in the exposed infant, such as restlessness, increased crying and changes in reflexes.

Will Beer Increase My Milk Supply?

Contrary to what you may have heard, alcohol (namely beer as it contains barley) does not help to increase milk supply. It may stimulate prolactin (our milk making hormone), however, it inhibits oxytocin (our hormone that is responsible for the milk being ejected or “let-down.”) This can lead to a decreased milk supply.

Do I Need To Pump-and-Dump?

Alcohol does transfer readily into breastmilk, however it is not stored in milk. Alcohol enters and exits the milk according to the mother’s blood alcohol level. Milk levels of alcohol peak at 30-60 minutes following ingestion and then define rapidly if no more is ingested. Since alcohol will remain in any pumped milk, it is necessary to discard any milk pumped in the immediate hours after drinking. If you know that you will be having a drink or two, pump BEFORE you consume any alcohol. This milk will be safe for baby. Clearly, if you’ve gone beyond the “drink or two”, it is wise not to put baby to breast, particularly if you are feeling at all inebriated. It is safe to resume breastfeeding after you feel sober.