Can You Really Drink if You're Breastfeeding?

After nine months of abstaining from booze, it’s no wonder that we’re reaching for the champers once our little ones arrive! It’s easy to think this is harmless however there are some considerations to make if you’re breastfeeding. You may also want to read on if you have a newborn or preterm baby.

Not all bad news

baby breastfeeding and looking at the camera

The good news is it’s generally safe to drink alcohol in moderation while you breastfeed but what does that actually mean?

Well, it means that very little alcohol passes through your breastmilk. When you drink, alcohol enters into your blood stream and breastmilk. The odd drink is generally considered to be safe but this hasn’t been proven so it’s still advised to be cautious and drink with extra moderation in mind.

Drinking in moderation

Drinking in moderation is so important when looking after a baby and you should be extra cautious if you have a premature or newborn baby. This is because premature and newborn babies are particularly vulnerable so alcohol could put them at risk and, if you drink there is an increased chance of you missing a feed and your baby being fed formula. Now, formula doesn’t tend to be dangerous for babies but it’s not advised for newborn or preterm babies due to their vulnerability and immature gut.

Going out and managing drinking

The more alcohol you drink the longer it will stay in your system so take that into account when planning on having a night out. You may want to wait until your baby is older so you don’t have to miss feeds as this could put your milk supply at risk. Remember that you could still enjoy a night out without drinking and then skip the dreaded hangover altogether! The options of non-alcoholic drinks these days is really amazing and most of the time you can’t tell the difference anyway so having a booze free night could be an option.

baby being fed by bottle while looking at mother

How to manage breastfeeding if you want to drink

  1. The best way to keep your baby safe is to allow time between drinking and feeding. This means that you will give your body time to process the alcohol and allow it to leave your system

 

  1. The peak of alcohol in your system and breastmilk will be 30-60 minutes after you’ve last had any alcohol so ensure you don’t feed your baby soon after a drink

 

  1. The advice is to leave it at least 2-3 hours after a drink before you breastfeed but, add 2-3 for every drink. The hours could quickly clock up which is worth considering before you drink!

 

  1. You can plan ahead and express milk to store if your baby has learned to take it from a bottle as well as your breast.

 

  1. If you don’t want your supply to be impacted then you would still need to express milk so having a pump you can take out with you is advised or learn how to hand express in advance.

 

  1. If you can’t store the milk safely while you’re out then it would be advised to not feed your baby the milk you express if it’s been out of the fridge for more than 2 hours.

 

  1. Don’t feel bad about wanting to have a drink when you are with friends or out on an occasion. Its perfectly fine so long as you do it in a way that is safe for your baby, even if it’s a bit of a chore to have to think ahead and plan it.

Risks of breastfeeding and drinking alcohol

  1. It goes without saying that if you’re not sober enough to hold your baby then you’re definitely not sober enough to breastfeed. Obviously if you plan on going out and getting legless then please don’t breastfeed or look after your baby. Call on your support network and arrange an alternative!

 

  1. Remember that it’s important never to share a bed, or a sofa or an armchair with your baby if you have been drinking alcohol. It goes without saying that this would be dangerous and is one of the causes of sudden infant death syndrome.

For on demand answers to any questions you might have on this topic, why not reach out via the butterbean helpline? It’s monitored by our team of midwives, meaning support is on hand as and when you need it!

‘Pump and dump’

mother breastfeeding her baby and using a handheld pump to express breastmilk

Some women are advised to ‘pump and dump’ after drinking – it’s believed that this is an effective way to rid your body of the alcohol in your system so you can breastfeed again.

Sorry for the spoiler alert but this won’t work because your breastmilk will have the same alcohol levels as your blood. The only effective tool for enabling alcohol to leave your system is – time. It’s suggested that 2-3 hours for every drink you’ve had is enough time for the alcohol to have left for your system. So, if you’ve had 2 drinks then you’d want to be waiting 4-6 hours before continuing to breastfeed.

Stopping Breastfeeding

If you’re considering stopping breastfeeding and want to know how to do this safely then be sure to check out our blog on this topic.

woman drinking a glass of white wine and looking away

Can You Really Drink if You're Breastfeeding?

woman drinking a glass of white wine and looking away

After nine months of abstaining from booze, it’s no wonder that we’re reaching for the champers once our little ones arrive! It’s easy to think this is harmless however there are some considerations to make if you’re breastfeeding. You may also want to read on if you have a newborn or preterm baby.

Not all bad news

baby breastfeeding and looking at the camera

The good news is it’s generally safe to drink alcohol in moderation while you breastfeed but what does that actually mean?

Well, it means that very little alcohol passes through your breastmilk. When you drink, alcohol enters into your blood stream and breastmilk. The odd drink is generally considered to be safe but this hasn’t been proven so it’s still advised to be cautious and drink with extra moderation in mind.

Drinking in moderation

Drinking in moderation is so important when looking after a baby and you should be extra cautious if you have a premature or newborn baby. This is because premature and newborn babies are particularly vulnerable so alcohol could put them at risk and, if you drink there is an increased chance of you missing a feed and your baby being fed formula. Now, formula doesn’t tend to be dangerous for babies but it’s not advised for newborn or preterm babies due to their vulnerability and immature gut.

Going out and managing drinking

The more alcohol you drink the longer it will stay in your system so take that into account when planning on having a night out. You may want to wait until your baby is older so you don’t have to miss feeds as this could put your milk supply at risk. Remember that you could still enjoy a night out without drinking and then skip the dreaded hangover altogether! The options of non-alcoholic drinks these days is really amazing and most of the time you can’t tell the difference anyway so having a booze free night could be an option.

baby being fed by bottle while looking at mother

How to manage breastfeeding if you want to drink

  1. The best way to keep your baby safe is to allow time between drinking and feeding. This means that you will give your body time to process the alcohol and allow it to leave your system

 

  1. The peak of alcohol in your system and breastmilk will be 30-60 minutes after you’ve last had any alcohol so ensure you don’t feed your baby soon after a drink

 

  1. The advice is to leave it at least 2-3 hours after a drink before you breastfeed but, add 2-3 for every drink. The hours could quickly clock up which is worth considering before you drink!

 

  1. You can plan ahead and express milk to store if your baby has learned to take it from a bottle as well as your breast.

 

  1. If you don’t want your supply to be impacted then you would still need to express milk so having a pump you can take out with you is advised or learn how to hand express in advance.

 

  1. If you can’t store the milk safely while you’re out then it would be advised to not feed your baby the milk you express if it’s been out of the fridge for more than 2 hours.

 

  1. Don’t feel bad about wanting to have a drink when you are with friends or out on an occasion. Its perfectly fine so long as you do it in a way that is safe for your baby, even if it’s a bit of a chore to have to think ahead and plan it.

Risks of breastfeeding and drinking alcohol

  1. It goes without saying that if you’re not sober enough to hold your baby then you’re definitely not sober enough to breastfeed. Obviously if you plan on going out and getting legless then please don’t breastfeed or look after your baby. Call on your support network and arrange an alternative!

 

  1. Remember that it’s important never to share a bed, or a sofa or an armchair with your baby if you have been drinking alcohol. It goes without saying that this would be dangerous and is one of the causes of sudden infant death syndrome.

For on demand answers to any questions you might have on this topic, why not reach out via the butterbean helpline? It’s monitored by our team of midwives, meaning support is on hand as and when you need it!

‘Pump and dump’

mother breastfeeding her baby and using a handheld pump to express breastmilk

Some women are advised to ‘pump and dump’ after drinking – it’s believed that this is an effective way to rid your body of the alcohol in your system so you can breastfeed again.

Sorry for the spoiler alert but this won’t work because your breastmilk will have the same alcohol levels as your blood. The only effective tool for enabling alcohol to leave your system is – time. It’s suggested that 2-3 hours for every drink you’ve had is enough time for the alcohol to have left for your system. So, if you’ve had 2 drinks then you’d want to be waiting 4-6 hours before continuing to breastfeed.

Stopping Breastfeeding

If you’re considering stopping breastfeeding and want to know how to do this safely then be sure to check out our blog on this topic.