Do Breastfeeding and Alcohol Mix?

Breastfeeding is very beneficial to both a mother and her child. It is difficult for some mothers to stick to breastfeeding with all of the rules and restrictions that they feel they must follow. Many mothers believe that they must avoid alcohol completely while breastfeeding. This is untrue. Although alcohol passes into breast milk and can affect the baby, mothers can take some steps to consume alcohol safely without ending the breastfeeding relationship.

How Much Alcohol Passes Through Breast Milk?

When nursing mothers consume alcohol, it is thought that less than two percent of the alcohol passes into her breast milk. A mother can safely consume up to two drinks and have the alcohol leave her breast milk within two to three hours. Drinking any more than that would take a longer period of time for it to clear out of the mother’s milk. Within this time, mothers are recommended not to breastfeed.

The Effects of Alcohol on Breast Milk and Breastfeeding Infants

Contrary to popular belief, alcohol does not stimulate milk production. Many mothers are told that they should drink beer if they’d like to produce more milk, but this is simply not true. Furthermore, mothers who drink alcohol on a daily basis tend to have babies who gain weight poorly.

Babies of mothers who drink daily may also have slowed motor development and poor sleep-wake patterns. Alcohol may also change the taste of breast milk, causing infants to nurse less often. This can result in a drop in the mother’s milk supply.

How Nursing Mothers can Safely Consume Alcohol

Mothers who wish to drink should be careful to avoid any poor effects to their breast milk or their child. It is recommended that mothers avoid alcohol altogether in the first three months after giving birth, as the livers of young babies have a hard time processing any alcohol that may be in breast milk.

If a nursing mom is planning to drink, she should pump ahead of time so that she has something else to offer should her baby become hungry. Breastfeeding should be avoided until the mother has sobered up. Sticking to only two drinks can help a mother to sober up quickly and be able to attend to her infant.

Some companies have created a milk screening test, which uses a dip stick to test alcohol levels in a mother’s milk. This can be helpful if a mother wants to be extremely careful and not risk her infant consuming any alcohol.

In summary, it is important that nursing mothers don’t get into a habit of drinking daily, but it can be done without harm on occasion. As long as the baby is not nursed while alcohol is present in the breast milk, there will be no harmful effects to mother or baby.

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