You shouldn’t feel like you have to live like a nun just because you had a baby! However, drinking too much can make caring for a baby difficult while under the influence and can make the following day feel like your worst nightmare from a potential hangover. Luckily, most moms don’t drink this excessively. More commonly, I know plenty of mamas who enjoy 1-2 glasses of wine each night almost as much as they love their morning coffee.
But, how much vino is not keeno while breastfeeding?
When it comes to breastfeeding safety and alcohol consumption I could kiss the person who first coined the term, “If you are safe to drive, you are safe to breastfeed”. Before this term became common in lactation, it was very difficult to explain to a mom all the variables to consider when drinking while breastfeeding. Variables such as: the age of the baby, her weight, her personal tolerance to alcohol (a regular drinker vs. an occasional drinker), what “proof” alcohol she will be consuming, how many drinks she consumes, and will she be drinking on an empty stomach or on a full stomach.
“Only tiny amounts of alcohol get into breastmilk and will not harm a baby”, says world-renowned lactation leader, Dr. Jack Newman. In fact, our leading researchers, such as Dr. Thomas Hale, PHD and even the Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) give moms their blessing if they want to partake in a cocktail while breastfeeding, That’s because they have found the amount of alcohol which reaches breastmilk to so minuscule (hundredths of a percent, i.e. 0.01-0.06).
Foolproof tips to make breastfeeding and alcohol consumption feel less confining:
- If you feel safe to drive, then breastfeed as usual.
- Feeling tipsy and baby is content? Just wait until you feel like yourself again and breastfeed as usual. Rationale: Since pumping does not speed the removal of milk alcohol levels, it’s not necessary for “just tipsy”.
- I’m not tipsy, I’m smashed… Do NOT pump & dump - this act is very outdated. Instead, if you feel you are unsafe to drive, pump and store your affected milk in the refrigerator overnight. Use it or move it to the freezer as needed once you no longer feel “under the influence”. Rationale: Breastmilk is living food (cells) and alcohol does not continue to accumulate in your milk. It metabolizes and leaves your milk just like it leaves your body. When you feel “normal” so is the milk you pumped & SAVED.
- Need further reassurance to SAVE your pumped milk? Then, follow the steps above, but add one more step to make yourself more comfortable if needed. Once you feel like your “old self”, before freezing it, label it with a reminder that it was pumped on a “girl’s night out, or Sarah’s 40th Birthday” and use it 3-6 months later when your baby grows older. Rationale: The baby’s gut matures more each day decreasing the baby’s sensitivity to any substance.
- Per Dr. Jack Newman, “You don't have to wait a certain time after your more recent drink in order to restart breastfeeding” and those alcohol testers are “useless”. The dipsticks sold only tell you that your milk has alcohol in it. Duh, if you had a drink that shouldn’t be news to you. They do not measure the amount of milk alcohol and therefore, have no data to be interpreted like a toxicology lab test. Rationale: A much simpler approach is to just ask yourself how you feel (and be honest). This insight will give you some idea of what your blood alcohol level is. Legal limits to drive in most states are around 0.08% not 0.00%. Meaning tiny amounts are ok and will not harm your baby.
- My personal tip to enjoy a night out with friends. Pace yourself! Order a glass of water and drink the entire glass between drinks to slow down your pace, keep hydrated, and to give those kidneys a boost eliminating your first drink. And remember, to eat before or while sipping on that glass of wine (because I know breastfeeding mamas never feel a ravenous appetite, NOT!).
Nurse Wendy RN, IBCLC, RLC